Chinese Censors Crack Down on ‘Illegal’ Live-Streaming, Including Erotic Banana Eating

A London-based YouTuber named Phil Watson uploaded a video of himself erotically eating a banana outside Chinese Embassy in London to protest Beijing's latest censorship targeting “suggestive” live-streaming.

Live-streaming talk shows, many featuring women, have become more and more common in the last few years in China. On average, viewers spend about 135 minutes daily watching such shows.

A total of 60 percent of the viewers are younger than 22-years-old and 77 percent are male. Popular hosts can make up to 10,000 yuan (about $1,500) per month, mostly from tips they receive from fans, though the platforms themselves generate income through advertising and partnerships with gaming companies too.

Authorities began cracking down on “illegal” content in February 2016, targeting live-streaming platforms. In this case, illegal content can include unauthorized live-streaming of TV dramas or news reports, vulgar language, “inappropriate” clothing (hosts who appear on camera in their underwear or in sleeveless tops, for example) and eating and posing with bananas in a “provocative” manner.

As it is impossible to pre-screen live-streamed content, China's public security bureau has set up police branches at the office of major live-streaming platforms to oversee what is being broadcasted.

One local newspaper, New Express, published a follow-up feature story on May 5 exploring how exactly the web censors review live-streamed content. In one single company, there are about 80 people working around-the-clock shifts to censor broadcasted material. All of the live-streamed content are reviewed by automatic sound and image detectors before passing through the human censor team.

Each member of the team has to review more than 60,000 screenshots from the live-streamed content per hour. The team manages to take down illegal content within 20 seconds after the live-stream has started, according to the New Express story. The article didn't specify if the censors were company employees, police agents or subcontracted workers.

Platforms that don't meet authorities’ censorship standards will be fined or even taken offline.

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