Douyin, China’s TikTok, bans thousands of accounts in crackdown against porn, prostitution

·4-min read

Popular short video app Douyin, the Chinese-language version of TikTok, has banned tens of thousands of user accounts to ramp up its campaign against pornography, prostitution and other related illegal activities on its platform.

ByteDance-owned Douyin said it has permanently blocked 127,000 accounts this month and helped police track down perpetrators in two cases, according to its blog post on Tuesday in news aggregator Jinri Toutiao, which the Beijing-based tech start-up also owns.

In the cases Douyin tracked with the police, the banned accounts had posted advertisements for prostitution and other information considered vulgar, which provided links to various social media accounts including those on WeChat and QQ, the blog post said. Illegal transactions, it added, are then completed on the linked platforms. Tencent Holdings operates WeChat and QQ.

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“Douyin doesn’t have access to such data on those platforms,” the blog post said. “We hope internet companies, including Tencent, would collaborate with us to fight this black industry chain through sharing of data, so we can protect the interest of all users.”

A representative of ByteDance had no further information on Douyin’s blog post after providing a copy to the South China Morning Post. Tencent did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Douyin’s latest campaign continues the decades-long crackdown in China against pornography and other content deemed inappropriate by the country’s censors. In recent years, regulators have stepped up their oversight of online content in the world’s largest internet market.

In 2018, for example, the National Office Against Pornographic and Illegal Publications – a government body tasked with cleaning up China’s web – raised the bounty for reporting pornography and other illegal content.

In that same year, Tencent’s QQ “sealed and stopped” 280 groups and suspended 600 accounts on its platform after receiving tip-offs that minors were posting sexually provocative content.

Still, such issues in China for ByteDance pale in comparison to the problems faced overseas by its TikTok short-video app.

A US Senate committee overseeing homeland security on Wednesday unanimously approved a proposal to ban the use of TikTok on government-issued devices. That followed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s statement earlier this month that the US is considering taking action against Chinese social media apps, such as TikTok, over privacy and national security concerns.

India banned TikTok and 58 other Chinese apps after a deadly border clash last month. Australia is also reviewing the app over foreign interference and data privacy concerns. Pakistan’s telecommunications authority on Tuesday urged TikTok to clamp down on obscenity, vulgarity and immorality on its platform.

ByteDance, the world’s most valuable start-up, is considering an overhaul of TikTok’s corporate structure in a bid to distance the app from Beijing amid the political backlash in the US and other markets.

Additional reporting by Coco Feng

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