TikTok Users In China Banned For Speaking Their Own Cantonese Language

TikTok Users In China Temporarily Banned For Speaking Their Own Cantonese Language Instead Of Using The Official Mandarin, Techdirt Reports.

Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok, is suspending users who speak Cantonese on its livestreaming platform, according to a Guangzhou-based livestreamer. The company attributes the suspensions to issues with their content safety mechanisms.

Most people know about TikTok, from the company Bytedance, but not many know that it is the international version of the similar, but separate, Douyin app. The What’s on Weibo site has a good explanation of why the two versions came about, and how they differ:

Why would Bytedance go through the effort to create two apps running on different systems? The answer partly lies in China’s strictly controlled online environment, where (social) media companies have to adhere to local policies on what is and what is not allowed to be published on their (user-generated) platforms.

Having two distinct apps allows Bytedance to enforce China’s strict rules for the domestic market, while granting foreign users more freedom in what they can post. Overt censorship is unacceptable in many other countries, and would probably have throttled TikTok’s rapid rise.

As a result of this split market, people outside China are generally unaware of the rules imposed on Douyin content. David Paulk is Head of News on the Sixth Tone site, which provides valuable independent news and commentary on the country. A recent Twitter thread from him offers a rare chance to see the kind of thing that happens on Douyin:

On Monday, the Guangzhou-based WeChat account Yangcheng Net posted an article detailing how several Douyin users had received 10-minute bans from the platform for speaking their native Cantonese during livestreams.

A pop-up notification told the streamers to “Please speak Mandarin to involve more users from other areas (of China).” Among the suggestions for “rectification” was “please speak Mandarin.”

Dozens of TikTok accounts banned over IS Video

TikTok Users In China Banned For Speaking Their Own Cantonese Language - Busitech News
TikTok Users In China Banned For Speaking Their Own Cantonese Language

A person who manages a Douyin account promoting Cantonese culture to its 230,000 followers said he had received two bans and multiple warnings for using Cantonese. Clearly, using Mandarin instead of Cantonese would nullify the whole point of the account. Naturally, Paulk wanted to know why Cantonese was being discriminated against in this way:

When we contacted PR for ByteDance, TikTok’s large & powerful parent company, they strongly advised us against pursuing the story. We said we were going to anyway, but they went over our heads to get it canned.

Paulk wrote that he suspected Douyin was under pressure from the Chinese government to make sure nothing “objectionable” was being said, and a Mandarin-only rule made that easier. His suspicions seem to be confirmed by a later comment from Douyin’s PR:

Douyin is building out content safety capabilities for additional languages and dialects. As one of the most widely spoken dialects in China, Cantonese is a top priority, and we hope to have it fully supported in the near future.

Cantonese is already supported in livestreams — you just start talking. In this context “support” clearly means censor. It’s also interesting that Cantonese is dubbed a “dialect” in Douyin’s statement.

There are around 68 million native speakers of Cantonese — more than most languages around the world — notably in Hong Kong. Moreover, Cantonese is not merely a “dialect” of Mandarin, as Douyin implies when it talks of “languages and dialects”: they are quite separate languages that derive independently from Middle Chinese.

As Wikipedia notes: “Middle Chinese texts sounding more similar to modern Cantonese than other present-day Chinese varieties, including Mandarin.” Maybe Mandarin users of Douyin should be told to speak in Cantonese so they can get closer to their language’s ancient roots.

About TikTok

TikTok is a Chinese video-sharing social networking service owned by ByteDance, a Beijing-based company founded in 2012 by Zhang Yiming. It is used to create short dance, lip-sync, comedy, and talent videos.

The app was launched in 2017 for iOS and Android in markets outside of China and is available in 40 different languages

ByteDance first launched Douyin for the China market in September 2016.

It became available in the United States after merging with musical.ly on August 2, 2018.

TikTok and Douyin are similar to each other and essentially the same app, however they run on separate servers to comply with Chinese censorship restrictions.

The application allows users to create short music and lip-sync videos of 3 to 15 seconds and short looping videos of 3 to 60 seconds. The app is popular in Asia, the United States, and other parts of the world.

TikTok is available in China as Douyin; its servers are based in countries where the app is available.

After merging with musical.ly in August, downloads rose and TikTok became the most downloaded app in the US in October 2018, the first Chinese app to achieve this.

As of 2018, it was available in over 150 markets and in 75 languages. In February 2019, TikTok, together with Douyin, hit one billion downloads globally, excluding Android installs in China.

In 2019, TikTok was declared the 7th most downloaded mobile app of the decade, from 2010 to 2019. It was also declared the #1 most downloaded app on the App Store in 2018 and 2019.