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.
The United States Department of Commerce announced a prohibition on transactions relating to mobile apps WeChat and TikTok. This is being done in response to President Trump’s Executive Orders that were signed on August 6, 2020. The action by the Department of Commerce describes the decision as one made “to safeguard the national security of the United States.”
Here is a small portion of the Department of Commerce’s announcement:
…While the threats posed by WeChat and TikTok are not identical, they are similar. Each collects vast swaths of data from users, including network activity, location data, and browsing and search histories. Each is an active participant in China’s civil-military fusion and is subject to mandatory cooperation with the intelligence services of the CCP. This combination results in the use of WeChat and TikTok creating unacceptable risks to our national security.
Has the U.S. government ever banned an app before? If so, I don’t remember that happening. The thing that bothers me is that there are several social media platforms that collect the same kinds of data from American users, (but are not involved with China). My concern is that the prohibition on WeChat and TikTok could be used as precedent for the Trump Administration to ban Twitter and/or Facebook.
As of September 20, 2020, the following transactions are prohibited:
- Any provision of service to distribute or maintain the WeChat or TikTok mobile applications, constituent code, or application updates through an online mobile application store in the U.S.;
- Any provision of services through the WeChat mobile application for the purpose of transferring funds or processing payments within the U.S.
As of September 20, 2020, WeChat, and as of November 12, 2020, for TikTok, the following transactions are prohibited:
- Any provision of internet hosting services enabling the functioning or optimization of the mobile application in the U.S.;
- Any provision of content delivery network services enabling the functioning or optimization of the mobile application in the U.S.
- Any provision directly contracted or arranged internet transit or peering services enabling the function or optimization of the mobile application in the U.S.;
- Any utilization of the mobile application’s constituent code, functions, or services in the functioning of software or services developed and/or accessible within the U.S.;
CNBC reported that WeChat is owned by the Chinese company Tencent. TikTok’s parent company is Beijing-based Byte Dance. CNBC points out that the prohibition means Apple and Google will have to pull those apps from their libraries.