SEOUL, South Korea — As Chinese authorities increase control over the entertainment business, fourteen content providers in China, including Tencent and Weibo, are guaranteeing a “healthy” online environment.
Last Friday, officials from content providers were summoned by the China Association of Performing Arts, a government-affiliated group, to explore methods to promote positive values in order to “clean” the internet.
The association said on its WeChat statement Saturday that “the platforms would strengthen their management of accounts and restrict those who spread baseless star gossip or stir up conflicts between fan groups,” just a week after China’s major microblogging platform, Sina Weibo, restricted the use of 21 fan club accounts.
Weibo’s ban on fan accounts came only days after a lavish birthday party for a K-pop singer went viral on Twitter on September 5. Fans of BTS member Jimin who follow the Weibo account “JiMIN JMC,” a fan community for him, donated money to get his portrait plastered on an aircraft. Weibo suspended the fan page’s ability to publish new content for 60 days, citing the process for collecting money as illegitimate.
“When irrational star-chasing conduct is discovered, it should be taken seriously,” Weibo wrote on its official website, alluding to fandom funding. “The firm immediately suspended 21 accounts for 30 days and deleted the posts that were associated with them.”
“Because China is a one-party state with a rigid communist ideology, if the authorities seize control of one big firm, other social media companies would follow suit without any resistance,” Kim Hern-sik, a pundit who researches and analyzes K-pop, told ABC News. “Selling K-pop merchandise and maintaining online fan groups within China will be difficult for Weibo, China’s most prominent social media platform.”
The Chinese government has made it plain that it plans to control pop culture this year. The Chinese Cyberspace Administration published a guideline last month to deal with “disorderly fandom management.” The restrictions include prohibiting minors from participating in fan club activities and entrusting fan club management to entertainment firms. Although there is tremendous camaraderie among fan-created groups on Weibo and Twitter that gather cash for celebrity birthday parties and presents, the Chinese government has labeled the fan culture as “chaotic.”
“Do not try to persuade fans to consume. The Chinese Cyberspace Administration explicitly stated in its rules issued on Aug. 27 that contests should not be held to encourage or increase consumption. In a notification issued on September 2, China’s National Radio and Television Administration prohibited broadcasters and online platforms from conducting “commercial operations to encourage fan consumption.”
Following the news, QQ Music and Tencent’s Chinese music streaming service decided to prohibit users from buying multiple copies of an album online.
Album sales are used as a measure of a pop star’s popularity. China, behind the United States and Malaysia, had the third biggest share of K-pop album sales confirmed on the Hanteo website in the first half of 2021, according to the South Korean music chart Hanteo.
BLACK PINK member Lisa’s greatest Twitter fan group notified fans that they would not be able to order as many copies of her new album as anticipated.
“We regret to inform you that we may not be able to order as many copies as we had anticipated as we write this. In a tweet on Aug. 31, the account claimed, “We’ve come across unforeseen difficulties with increased limits on fan clubs.”
Last Thursday, China’s National Radio and Television Administration stated that effeminate male celebrities, as well as celebrities who are not politically active, should not be allowed to appear on television in China.
According to Kweon Sang Hee, a professor at Sungkyunkwan University, “tackling people’s fan community involvement cannot be completed in one stroke,” but “it appears the Chinese authorities will continue to increase their influence step by step.”