China is going after the growing livestreaming industry. Chinese officials are creating new rules that would limit the amount of money users can tip and cap how much livestreamers can receive from followers in a day, sources told The Wall Street Journal.
The goal of these new rules is ostensibly to fight online fraud, phone addiction and unhealthy online spending. But one source told the Journal that authorities were worried that creators would aim to become livestreaming celebrities, which runs against their values.
The livestreaming sector has grown to a roughly $30 billion industry in China, with livestreaming services taking up an audience of about 70% of China’s internet users, the Journal reported. As of March 2020, the number of livestreamers exploded to 560 million, and tipping while watching livestreams became an increasingly popular practice among young users. Those tips could take the form of both money and virtual gifts.
Chinese officials have targeted livestreaming before. Government officials released voluntary guidelines for livestreaming last year, including suggestions that platforms limit the amount of money livestreamers can earn from fans, but those were not hard and fast rules. China’s National Radio and Television Administration also told livestreamers and fans to use their real names online and restricted people younger than 18 years old from tipping or purchasing gifts.
Livestreaming has also become a place to channel state politics. Huang Wei, for example, is a prominent livestreamer in China and has been recognized multiple times for her role in philanthropy and public service.
The new rules come after a more recent crackdown in China on private tutoring and ed tech. But while those new restrictions appear to be linked to China’s focus on Big Tech, experts have said that China appears to be more concerned with educational inequality specifically, and that ed tech restrictions shouldn’t necessarily be grouped in with restrictions on large tech firms.