THE US AND UK are to follow China’s lead in moderating popular digital media, particularly for children and young adults.
The west’s global leader in short-form video social media, TikTok, is adopting policies from its Chinese parent app, Douyin, as concerns rise in the west about the negative effects of social apps, including Instagram, Twitter, and others.
In China, active steps are taken to prevent addiction. Young users get just 40 minutes a day of Douyin (the original TikTok), and the app completely shuts down their access from 10 pm to 6 am.
In the west, users average 112 minutes a day on Tiktok, with many spending more than two hours a day on it.
Last week the western version of TikTok said it would introduce a stop-after-60-minutes policy for younger users.
However, those same users are pledging to bypass the limitation.
Authorities in the West are increasingly concerned about the number of scientific studies (55 reports at a recent count—click this link for a detailed review) that show times spent on social media is closely correlated to skyrocketing rates of anxiety and depression.
It has become increasingly clear that China’s stronger moderation policies are making a difference.
Five Things the West Should Urgently Copy
1. Addicting algorithms are seen as bad for society in China, and regulators have been attacking them by tweaking the rules to prevent use of them for three years.
In the west, they are seen as a good business tool to increase viewership and lift ad revenue.
2. When algorithms are manipulated in China, it is to bring attention to fitness, health and other socially positive themes.
In the west, algorithms not used for positive influencing, as this would be seen as “social engineering”, considered a bad thing in the west.
3. People who rise to popularity as “influencers” among young users in China are moderated downwards to avoid unhealthy populism.
In the west, influencers are moderated upwards, attracting audiences of millions for their views, which are not always positive for society.
4. When young people in China watch apps on their phones in the evenings, they get regular five-second interruptions with advice to “put the phone down” or “go to sleep”, and service stops entirely if they keep watching for 40 minutes. At 10 pm, Douyin shuts down until 6 am. When introduced, these rules were reported negatively in the west.
However, the west is now introducing milder copies of these policies.
A related point is that Western companies tend to make only token efforts to moderate content, and make bypassing barriers extremely easy (“Are you 18?”)
5. Western media sometimes report that Tiktok is full of harmful challenges, while the Chinese equivalent is filled with science lessons. This is not really true: both feature people being creative in different ways, and there are plenty of attractive young people dancing on both apps, as anyone who compares them can see. However, it is undeniable that Chinese apps in general are more wholesome, and content for youth is more carefully moderated.
It is noteworthy that Chinese cultural traditions and beliefs are often celebrated on their apps, while in the west, traditions and beliefs are generally attacked.
Furthermore, education is a significant theme in Chinese social media, while appearing only superficially in western social media.
TRUTH ABOUT CHINA AND DATA
The whole data privacy issue is extraordinarily misreported.
Which was the first country in the world to make it mandatory for internet companies to offer users a chance to choose to prevent companies using their data for personalised content? It was China. This was introduced, across all tech companies, in 2022.
Note the irony. The western media on an almost daily basis accuses China of using private tech companies to collect the personal data of westerners, but the real story is that China does no such thing and has taken steps to prevent the exact same private companies collect personal data, even from its own citizens.
There appears to be no way of getting western journalists to report it, since it fatally undermines one of the major fearmongering themes of the western military-media-industrial complex.
The irony level doubles when one realizes that the false allegation that China is using TikTok to collect westerners’ personal data is widely spread on western social media: which IS collecting your personal data as you read that very story.
WESTERN PORNOGRAPHY FLOODS THE WORLD
But there’s another very serious angle that is being under-appreciated. It’s not just young people who are being harmed. Adults everywhere, and global society as a whole, are in grave danger from the west’s ultra-permissive stances on what can be acceptably published. In particular, the internet, globally, is flooded with pornography, with the majority from US origins. In the west, pornography may be divided into “extreme” and “non-extreme”, but from the point of view of traditional Asian societies, which are often very modest by western standards, all of it qualifies as extreme.
The sex drive is among the most fundamental elements of human interaction and no one knows just what effect the global flood of pornography will have on humanity.
“Internet pornography is the greatest untested social experiment in history,” Vanessa Morse, chief executive of the Centre to End All Sexual Exploitation, told the UK Times newspaper last month. “It is causing societal harm and relational harm. We need our policy and decision-makers to catch up with pornography and say: ‘This is a public-health issue.’ ”
The challenge, of course, is to get everyone working together on these sorts of issues. The UK has been trying unsuccessfully to introduce laws to prevent young people accessing pornography for years.
In China, this can be achieved with a single series of consultations, followed by a legislative process.
Image at the top by Fauxels/ Pexels