China’s livestreaming ecommerce industry has recently come under the microscope, in response to mounting reports over “immoral” conduct.
Scandal-ridden celebrities have quietly taken steps back into the limelight via livestreaming, an industry where regulatory oversight is less developed and robust. And in the weeks following the Singles’ Day shopping festival — China and the world’s biggest annual day of spending — reports of deception and money-grabs began to stack up, even reaching the king of the industry Li Jiaqi.
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“It’s necessary not to provide illegal and immoral artists with public appearances and opportunities, in order to prevent the spread of bad habits in the livestreaming field,” said the National Radio and Television Administration in a statement.
The new regulations address issues ranging from online tipping to real-name registration, but the vague ban on “immoral artists” has Weibo users wondering which A-listers may fit the bill.
Many mentioned actress Fan Bingbing, who disappeared for three months in 2018 after becoming embroiled in a tax evasion scandal. Part of her small-scale return to the public eye included a livestreaming selling event in October 2019 — Fan sold 10 million RMB (about 1,500,000 USD) in minutes, but some online questioned whether the star should be let off the hook so easily.
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“Those [celebrities] who are using drugs, cheating on their spouses, engaging in domestic violence, gambling, evading taxes, committing fraud, and selling fake masks, should be banned,” one user wrote.
There also have been issues with alleged “click farms” and fake numbers during celebrities’ streams.
On November 8, singer Yang Kun sold out 1.2 million RMB (about 182,000 USD) of products, 1.1 million RMB of which was reportedly later refunded. Three clients who had each pre-paid Yang for his services went to the police on suspicion that Yang was engaging in fraud, but ultimately the case didn’t gain traction according to local media.
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While the new regulations have been criticized as obscure, state media outlets have said that concrete standards around what exactly constitutes “immoral” will be published at a later date.
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