An employee of Jinri Toutiao, address queries from a visitor at an internet-themed exhibition in Wuzhen, Zhejiang province.
Online providers plan to improve content review, overhaul services
Chinese short video platforms promised to increase manpower in content review and overhaul their services, after the country's authority moved to straighten out irregularities with popular livestreaming and short video websites and applications to create a clean online environment.
In early April, the State Administration of Radio and Television and Cyberspace Administration of China asked news website Toutiao and livestreaming website Kuaishou to remove obscene and violent content, and close the user accounts that uploaded such content.
The move is aimed to close loopholes in the operation of these online services, criticized for attracting viewers regardless of government rules and morality.
Photo and video-sharing apps Kuaishou and Huoshan have been widely criticized recently for spreading videos of pregnant teenagers and teenage mothers－usually aged between 13 and 18 and unmarried－on their platforms in an effort to gain more fans and followers. Moreover, they have been criticized for featuring video hosts who make and distribute counterfeit products on their videos.
According to the China Internet Network Information Center, China had a total of 579 million online video viewers and 422 million livestreaming viewers by the end of 2017. A large number of them are young people including teenagers.
Amid intense competing for attention, some streamers and video providers have resorted to provoking content while service operators have indulged them due to clicks and advertisements.
Some service operators that promoted or highlighted such controversial videos claimed they did not do it intentionally, but relied on algorithms, which analyzed preference and popularity data, regardless of the content.
Su Hua, CEO of Kuaishou, admitted that the loophole stems from the values of humans behind the algorithms.
Some service operators have adopted remedy measures. Douyin, a short video app attached to Toutiao, promised to increase manpower in content review and post more positive content, while Kuaishou issued a manual on stricter content review.
"Short video platforms should formulate relevant rules and strengthen the monitoring of livestreaming and uploaded videos in accordance with the national regulations, said Ma Shicong, an analyst at Beijing-based internet consultancy Analysys.
Consulting firm iResearch estimated in a January report that the country's short video market size was about 5.73 billion yuan (2 million) in 2017, up 184 percent year-on-year, and might exceed 30 billion yuan in 2020.
"Cyberspace is not a lawless place, and every step taken online should comply with the law and social morality including business innovation," said Shen Yi, a professor with Fudan University in Shanghai.
The government actions could be regarded as a chance for the healthy development of the industry in the long run, said Chen Zhou, a strategic consultant with YY Inc, a livestreaming firm.
"Video apps luring viewers with vulgar content will quickly lose their market share," he said.