ByteDance, the parent company of TikTok, announced on Saturday, September 18 that the Chinese version of the famous short video application, dubbed Douyin, would no longer be accessible to users under the age of 14 beyond forty minutes per day as well as ‘between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. Like in the West, this short video app is very popular in China, where it has nearly 500 million users.
Douyin now automatically switches the under 14s to “youth mode”, an alternative version of the social network where videos devoted to the arts, history and science are shown. To prevent bypassing the lock in place, ByteDance has launched a software bug hunting competition. But it is unclear how zealously the company controls the age and identity of users who register with a fake account, with ByteDance also advising parents to register their child on the site themselves. platform or manually activate the “youth mode”.
Takeover of the State
It may be surprising that a leader in social networks limits the use of its services on its own, reducing its advertising revenue and exposing itself to competition. But this announcement should be read in the very specific context of a takeover of state control over tech billionaires as well as their businesses and services in the run-up to Xi Jinping’s campaign for his reappointment to the top. of the Chinese state.
In June, China revised its law on the protection of minors by requiring social networks to use tools to limit consumption. This law specifies that “Society, schools and families must lead an ideal education (…). The state encourages and supports the creation and distribution of online content conducive to the healthy growth of minors ”. It also sets the goal “To prevent minors from becoming dependent on the network”.
On August 3, the Chinese state went further by banning minors from using online video games during the week, limiting weekly consumption to three hours. Five months earlier, the world’s number one online video game, the Chinese Tencent, had yet tried to solve the problem of overconsumption pointed out by the authorities by imposing a “digital lock” on certain games for children under 13. An initiative probably too timid, since it did not dissuade the State from legislating.