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Daily Drip

Douyin Does Dunhuang Deal, is Accused of Purposefully Promoting Porn

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The story of Douyin — the Vine-like short video app known internationally as Tik Tok — continues to captivate us here at RADII.

This past week has been a typically rollercoaster one for the brand. First, they hit a new milestone, with 500 million active monthly users; then they had to respond to accusations that they were intentionally hosting “vulgar” content on their platform; and then they announced a new cultural link-up with ancient Silk Road settlement Dunhuang to help users explore the site’s rich heritage.

And that was just Douyin developments up until Thursday. There was still time on Friday for rumors to fly around that parent company Jinri Toutiao (Bytedance) was considering breaking the platform off for independent investment and that Alibaba might be about to throw some money in its direction.

A bit of background:

How Douyin (TikTok) Became the Most Popular App in the World

The 500 million active monthly users landmark is fairly self-explanatory so let’s get straight into the accusations concerning “yellow videos“. Last week a post on WeChat started doing the rounds supposedly exposing a Douyin video of a couple getting intimate in a bathroom. The post accused Douyin of having “no bottom line” (in the moral sense — i.e. “there’s no limit to how low they’ll go”) and said that the platform was purposefully allowing such content in the knowledge it would attract users and views.

Within a few days, 400 similar such posts had popped up all over WeChat. On Wednesday, Douyin put out an official announcement stating that the video “honestly has nothing to do with us”, and also suggesting that there appeared to be a concerted effort to upload such content onto the platform and follow it up with “news reports” — an attempt to “stigmatize Douyin’s name in the field of public opinion”, as they put it. The statement on the matter released through Douyin’s official WeChat channel was later deleted from Tencent’s platform.

Conspiracy or no, Douyin is of course right to be worried about hosting “vulgar content”, given the government seems on a particular crusade on that front right now.

Apps Removed, Teen Livestreamers Banned in Latest Push to Filter “Vulgar” Content

Perhaps with such concerns in mind, Douyin attempted to create some more wholesome, Party-pleasing headlines later in the week by announcing a new partnership with the “cultural tourism” authorities in Dunhuang, Gansu Province, once a major stop on the Silk Road. The move allowed Dunhuang to @all on the platform and encourage them to “come and play in my home”. That home includes sights such as Singing Sand Mountains, Crescent Lake oasis, and the Mogao Grottoes, a network of 492 temples dating back to 366AD and containing a millennium’s worth of Buddhist art.

Oh, and some camels.

The deal is part of Douyin’s attempts to ramp up its travel content under the Dou Travel brand. But it’s not the first time that Douyin has tried to position itself as a potential educational/soft power tool rather than a proliferator of vulgar videos. There was also this “dancing relic” initiative to celebrate International Museum Day back in May:

China’s National Treasures Dance on Music Video App Douyin

All in all, it’s been an eventful week for what was the world’s most popular (non-game) app on Apple’s App Store in the first quarter of 2018. And now with rumors that Alibaba may be about to invest (both they and Jinri Toutiao have reportedly refused to comment), it seems unlikely that next week will be a dull one for Douyin either.

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China from all angles.