Deputies want further regulation of reward functions

China Daily Updated: 2022-03-17

National legislators have called for further regulation of livestreaming reward functions to create a more positive online environment.

Li Jun, a deputy to the 13th National People's Congress, China's top legislature, filed a suggestion during its annual session, which closed on Friday, calling for improved regulation of livestreaming and the shutting down of related reward functions.

Li, also Party secretary of Xiuyun village in Guangyuan, Sichuan province, said reward functions on livestreaming platforms have created many social problems and led people away from proper social values.

His suggestion was made following news reports in recent years about people-especially minors-squandering money on tipping livestreaming hosts. To attract more attention and earn bigger tips, many hosts have resorted to disseminating vulgar language and content.

The high rewards and low costs tend to make young people think they can "reap without sowing", Li said.

"If such livestreaming can make easy money, then many people will think that serious down-to-earth work is meaningless and they will shift their focus to such performances," he said.

"Closing the reward function can effectively put an end to vulgar and other eye-catching content that approaches red lines to obtain gray income, and purify the internet environment," he said, adding that if related departments cannot shut down reward functions directly, then they should impose restrictions on livestreaming platforms by controlling their share of the rewards and put a cap on rewards given to hosts.

Li added that authorities should also issue corresponding monitoring standards, block or financially punish hosts or livestreaming channels that violate the rules, and guide the public toward positive energy online.

China has stepped up efforts in recent years to regulate the content of livestreams and short videos. In 2020, the National Radio and Television Administration released a notice on strengthening the management of online shows and livestreaming platforms, requiring all hosts and users to register with their real identities and banning juveniles from tipping hosts. The notice also said platforms should set a cap on rewards.

Since 2019, major livestreaming and short video platforms have introduced "youth mode" and "anti-addiction mode", allowing parents to set up guardian passwords and restrict access.

However, loopholes remain in actual operation, said Xiao Shengfang, an NPC deputy and chairman of the Guangdong Lawyers Association.

"Minors can easily use the loopholes and bypass the restrictions to watch a large number of livestreaming shows that are only suitable for adults," he said, adding that some platforms secretly allow this to happen for their own profits.

Xiao also filed a suggestion regarding the healthy development of the livestreaming industry during the NPC session. He said many regulatory departments supervise livestreaming, but the country lacks a unified top-down design of information, standards, responsibilities and obligations. As commercial entities, livestreaming platforms' main source of income is their share of the rewards given to contracted hosts, which means they tend to turn a blind eye to inappropriate content.

Xiao suggested classifying livestreaming content and managing it accordingly.

In his suggestion, Xiao said the first category of livestreaming content covers professional knowledge presented by expert hosts in a particular field. Such hosts should obtain qualifications, and be registered at regulatory authorities and verified by platforms.

The second category covers content with no professional knowledge that does not violate laws or regulations, such as gossip and shows presented by beautiful women who sing or dance but have no professional training. He suggested a mandatory cooling-off period for rewarding such content, meaning audience members could request the return of their money within three days without having to give a reason.

Xiao said content that has no value and violates regulations and social morals should be banned and related platforms and hosts should bear legal responsibilities.

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