China’s crackdown on big tech continues. As Beijing rails against internet addiction, TikTok parent company ByteDance on Saturday announced a new set of rules designed to limit the use of its platform by kids aged under 14 in China.
People under the age of 14 will access the app via Youth Mode, where their usage will be limited to 40 minutes a day, ByteDance said in a blog post. Additionally, this age group will only be able to access the app, which is called Douyin in China, between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m.
Douyin is almost identical to TikTok, except that it has much stricter content moderation. Politically sensitive clips, like ones that reference Tiananmen Square or the treatment of Uighur muslims in Xinjiang, are scrubbed immediately. Douyin has over 600 million daily users.
Previous regulation requires ByteDance and similar companies to verify its users’ real names and ages. Those users are required to hand over phone numbers and other personally identifying information to access certain apps and online games.
China has spent the past 10 months cracking down on its big tech companies, drawing up new regulations and tightening its control of the energetic sector. It started dramatically last October: Jack Ma’s Ant Group was planning to raise billions in the world’s biggest IPO, which was expected to value the company at over $300 billion. The day before the planned IPO, Chinese regulators pulled the plug, and the fintech company has since been restructured to come more directly under state control.
Jack Ma is China’s most known business figure, but he’s far from the only one to be targeted. Two days after the New York IPO of Didi, a Uber-like ride hailer, Chinese regulators ordered Didi to stop signing up new customers and demanded app stores kick Didi off their platforms. Online tutoring companies were targeted in July, before regulators moved to tackling video game addiction in August.
ByteDance has in recent years been one of China’s tech darlings, being called the world’s most valuable startup last year before getting embroiled in a geopolitical spat. China’s willingness to crack down on its champion companies was displayed in July, when Alibaba and Tencent were among several companies fined for hosting content deemed harmful to minors.
“In the youth mode, we have also prepared wonderful content for everyone, such as novel and interesting science experiments, exhibitions in museums and galleries, beautiful scenery across the country, explanations of historical knowledge and so on,” the ByteDance blog reads.