China has released new live-streaming industry regulations that list 31 prohibited behaviors, raising the bar for influencers to talk about certain topics, in the government’s latest effort to regulate the booming digital economy.
The 18-point guideline, issued by the National Radio and Television Administration and the Ministry of Culture and Tourism on Wednesday, June 22, requires influencers to have relevant qualifications to discuss certain topics, such as the right , finance, medicine and education, although the authorities did not specify the qualifications required.
The 31 prohibited behaviors during livestreaming sessions include posting content that weakens or distorts the leadership of the Communist Party of China, the country’s socialist reform and opening-up system.
Other prohibited behaviors include using deepfake technologies to tamper with images of party or state leaders, and deliberately “exaggerating” sensitive issues and gaining public attention.
Live streamers are also prohibited from showing an extravagant lifestyle, such as displaying luxury goods and money, according to the directive.
The new regulations come as the live e-commerce industry is undergoing rapid change amid heightened surveillance and economic headwinds.
Some of the most popular live streamers on Taobao Live, Alibaba Group Holding’s live e-commerce platform, have fallen out of favor for various reasons, leaving brands scrambling to find new ways to market their products. Alibaba owns the South China Morning Post.
Austin Li Jiaqi, known as China’s “lipstick king” for selling 15,000 tubes of lipstick in just five minutes, abruptly ended a livestream session on June 3 after apparently posting a tank-shaped ice cream. The image of the tank is a frequent target of Chinese censors because of its association with the Chinese military’s deadly Tiananmen Square crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Beijing on June 4, 1989.
Huang Wei, widely known as Viya, was fined a record 1.3 billion yuan (269 million Singapore dollars) for tax evasion late last year and has since disappeared from view public. It came after Zhu Chenhui and Lin Shanshan, two prominent influencers who were each fined tens of millions of yuan in November for tax evasion, also had their social media accounts and shops of e-commerce disappear.
Wednesday’s new guidelines emphasize that live streamers must report their income honestly and meet their tax obligations in accordance with the law.
The rules also direct platforms to refrain from giving public figures who have broken the law or shown “unethicality” the opportunity to express their opinions publicly, organize performances, create a new account or switch to another platform.
This article first appeared in the South China Morning Post.