In a significant move, Chinese authorities have dismantled a network of fake charity livestreaming channels that were exploiting impoverished rural areas. The operation involved fabricating tragedies to solicit donations and boost e-commerce sales.
The crackdown unfolded in Liangshan, a mountainous region in Sichuan Province, where police arrested 18 individuals. Additionally, they shut down multiple live streaming accounts on platforms like Douyin (China’s TikTok). Liangshan is home to numerous ethnic minority communities.
Moderately well-off influencers deliberately targeted remote villages, framing them as poverty-stricken areas. They staged scenes of hardship and posted videos appealing for assistance and donations. Once they amassed a following, they seamlessly transitioned into promoting products.
The orchestrators behind these schemes were agencies which manage influencers in China’s thriving livestreaming industry. They stand accused of nurturing fraudulent e-celebrities.
While the public initially responded sympathetically, their sentiment quickly shifted to outrage as they realized they’d been deceived. Experts are concerned that these scandals could erode trust in charitable causes.
In response, online platforms have tightened their regulations. Douyin, for instance, now mandates that charity accounts be certified. The platform claims it eliminated 9,000 fake poverty relief channels in the second quarter of the year.
Yet, overseeing China’s vast rural areas remains a considerable challenge. Videos continue to surface showing supposed volunteers callously pocketing “donations” after filming in impoverished villages.
While there’s a unanimous condemnation of these unlawful practices, some advocate for the protection of charity livestreaming. They argue that with proper regulation, this burgeoning industry could be directed toward genuinely positive ends.