2020-10-30 10:05:50

A new proposal to better regulate China’s booming livestreaming industry would introduce a “cool-off period” for big tippers, especially young ones.

The proposal was put forward by the China Association of Performing Arts — the country’s largest performing arts body, overseen by the Ministry of Education — during its annual meeting for the development of live e-commerce and short-video platforms on Wednesday. The rule is expected to go into effect by the end of the year, according to domestic media, though further details about the so-called cool-off period and limits on rewards given to livestreamers remain unclear.

Streaming has emerged as a lucrative medium for China’s live performers, as entertainment venues have had to shut their doors during the coronavirus outbreak. According to a report from Chinese information technology company Mianchao, livestreamers on video platform Douyin received 15.2 billion yuan ($2.3 billion) in gift revenue in the six months after last December, when the coronavirus outbreak started, representing an increase of 63% from the same period the previous year.

Along with the boom in business, viewers’ generous giving has come under scrutiny. In 2019, a Shanghai woman surnamed Weng sued her husband after he gave a large portion of their joint savings to a livestreamer. And in March, a middle schooler in the southern city of Shenzhen made headlines by tipping a livestreamer over 120,000 yuan while using his father’s phone.

Wednesday’s proposal has been widely discussed on microblogging platform Weibo, with a related hashtag viewed over 140 million times by Friday afternoon. Many users applaud the prospect of regulating the current reward system, while some argue that viewers alone should be responsible for their financial decisions.

“If there’s a cool-off period for rewarding livestreamers, why should they even exist?” wrote one Weibo user. “Most consumption behavior is a consequence of being impulsive.”

Liu Junhai, a law professor at Renmin University of China in Beijing, told Sixth Tone that, while he agrees with the proposal in theory, there should be laws to support it.

Technically, tipping during livestreams isn’t “commercial behavior,” as it’s not transactional and therefore doesn’t fall under China’s e-commerce law, Liu said. “Now, we must rely on the platforms and the livestreamers themselves to help create a better, healthier online environment.”

Apart from the issue of unsupervised tipping, there have also been concerns recently over the use of livestreaming platforms to sell faulty or substandard products. On Thursday, Beijing’s market supervision bureau recommended that livestreaming platforms require hosts hoping to sell products on their channels to register under their real identities.

Editor: Bibek Bhandari.

(Header image: People Visual)