China has recently been toughening its stance on edtech and after-school tutoring services that mainly target children. And now, it seems like it is also directing its efforts towards social media services. News has it that the prosecutors in China have have alleged that chatting staple WeChat’s “youth mode” is in violation of the country’s child protection norms. Over the same, a lawsuit has been filed against parent company Tencent, even though no further explanation has been provided into exactly how the mode is in contravention of the rules.
A Useful Tool Violating Child Safety Norms?
For the unversed, the Youth Mode on WeChat is essentially a parental control, which prevents kids from making payments or transactions through the app, as well as from playing certain games, and finding nearby friends. Recently, the company had also imposed a one-hour time cap on young players of Honor of Kings, a game title available on the platform. Tencent has not issued a statement on the lawsuit as yet.
A Single Instance, Or Part Of A Bigger Plan?
Just last month, China imposed a new set of guidelines to drastically curb the power that the edtech industry holds in the country. Under the same, tech biggies like ByteDance and even Tencent were forced to cut back on their expansive after-school tutoring business. After this crackdown, it was rumored that China would next be setting its eye on the gaming industry, and it seems like the rumors were true, after all.
State media have already called online platforms out this week, and the country has also previously demanded better protection of children online. This comes even after many tech biggies, from Alibaba to Didi, have been slammed with antitrust lawsuits and even temporary app bans, over user privacy and national security concerns. It does seem that all these separate crackdowns are part of a larger banner, or rather, a more expansive agenda on China’s part, to rein in the big tech companies, and break the monopoly and hold that they have over the country’s economy.
At the same time, since the grounds over which China has alleged WeChat’s youth mode remain vague and unclear, one cannot say for sure if this particular suit will serve as a stand-alone instance, or if it will go on to pave the way for similar crackdowns against other social media services as well, including the likes of TikTok and Weibo.