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2023-01-13 10:04:37

An investigation by a state media outlet has raised concerns over vulgar information and excessive entertainment features in popular online study rooms, echoing public discontent about irrelevant features in education-related apps.

The Legal Daily report published Friday found that several popular education apps contained vulgar and pornographic content. Several users told the news outlet that they were bombarded with nude images during online gatherings and received flirtatious private messages from strangers in the app.

“I used the app at first for a smooth learning environment but now it’s all gone,” said a user who was quoted in the report and eventually deleted the app, though the media outlet didn’t disclose any names.

Online study rooms, where people gather virtually to study, have gained traction among students since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many pay for such classes hoping that a classroom-like setting and supervision will help them learn better and alleviate academic pressure.

But as the number of users grew, many apps started monetizing the user database by tapping into their networks and entertainment demands to diversify their revenues, insiders claim. Adding irrelevant features to apps has been a common formula for many apps that are keen on grabbing a slice of the market share dominated by bigger names such as Tencent and Alibaba.

The Legal Daily report said many education apps had chatting and entertainment features, as well as excessive advertisements. Many parents said they were worried it could distract students from learning and potentially lead to an addiction to such online features.

Critics say the practice of including unnecessary features in apps has provided grounds for the circulation of unhealthy content. In 2020, authorities ordered Tencent to rectify its online karaoke app due to sexual content in its songs and comment section, and the platform later deleted its networking feature.

Editor: Bibek Bhandari.

(Header image: A screenshot of an online study room from Bilibili.com)