Looking to make an app designed to be a fun distraction, less fun and less distracting, the forces that are past at Douyin – the Chinese version of TikTok it’s pretty much the same as the US version, but with enhanced e-commerce features – launched new features aimed at curbing the binge-watching behaviors they worry about are now prevalent among the video stream the app’s overwhelming young users.
On Friday, the South China Morning Post reported that Douyin-like, like its US-based counterpart, is owned by Chinese multinational ByteDance, implemented the changes in reverence for the Chinese government’s increased investigation into alleged addictive online behavior that this kind of app specializes in enabling, with overlong viewing sessions specifically in the crosshairs.
Douyin will now reportedly hijack users’ screens once they have streamed for an as yet unspecified time considered too long to sporadically show a series of five-second PSAs that the app was created in collaboration with the Chinese band Phoenix Legend. These videos – which can not be deleted or clicked off – all recommend that users either “puts down the phone”, “going to bed”, getting ready “work tomorrow” or another lame that users are obviously deliberately avoiding by scrolling through social media.
This is not the first time Douyin, which has over 600 million daily active users in China, has messed with teens’ lives by making them aware of what’s going on in the real world: The app also recently revealed what it declared to be its “strictest ever” setting for teens, limiting usage time for users under 14 to just 40 minutes a day. Under the new setting, users within this age range may also only use the app between 06.00 and 22.00.
Chinese authorities are increasingly regretting the chokehold algorithm-driven content of young Internet users. In fact, Chinese officials notorious hatred algorithmic feeds, especially because they threaten to reinforce information and ideologies that the government and its censors would otherwise seek to cover. The Chinese government announced in September a three-year plan to bring content recommendation algorithms to pour in the country and strengthen the one-state grip on what conversations people have and when they have them.