China Sues Tencent Over WeChat’s Youth Mode

Beijing prosecutors initiated a civil public-interest lawsuit against a Tencent subsidiary on Friday, saying the “youth mode” on the company’s popular social messaging app WeChat does not comply with laws protecting minors, Reuters reported.

The Verge explained that the lawsuit is against Tencent, a Chinese tech giant. The Verge also explained that when WeChat is used in youth mode, it restricts younger users’ access to functions like mobile payments, as well as certain games.

According to South China Morning Post Tencent has significantly cut down playing time for minors under 18 on its flagship game Honour of Kings in a bid to appease Beijing’s concerns about gaming addiction among young people in China.

More specifically, gamers under the age of 18 will have their playing time limited to one hour on regular days and two hours on public holidays. These minors were previously allowed to play Honour of Kings up to 1.5 hours on a regular day and three hours on holidays. Teenagers will also be prohibited from playing the game between 10pm and 8am, a move that goes beyond the central government’s mandatory limits for minors to engage in gaming.

In addition, minors under the age of 12 are banned from spending money to top up in the game. Gamers between 12 and 16 are only allowed to spend up to 200 yuan (US $31) per month, with a single charge capped at 50 yuan. Those between 16 and 18 are limited to 400 yuan per month, with a single charge capped at 100 yuan.

In my opinion, it sounds like the Beijing prosecutors may have intended these rules to place limitations on players who are under the age of 18 as a means of preventing harm to them. However, the limitations of play time and the amount of money those players can spend could significantly harm the revenue that Tencent previously made on this game.