China Targets ‘Chaotic’ Online Fan Groups to Tame Teen Culture

Authorities say hate and abuse on social media may be negatively impacting young people.

China’s top cyberspace watchdog said it will strengthen oversight of online fan groups, which often use organized activities to elevate their beloved idols’ images or tarnish competitors’ reputations.

Zhang Yongjun, a senior official at the Cyberspace Administration of China, told reporters on Saturday that the agency will focus on “standardizing the online behaviors of fan groups” in a three-month campaign to minimize online hate and abuse. He said “chaotic fan circles” have become a problem online, resulting in the “erosion” of teenagers as they indulge in “limitless” fan culture.

The remarks came after a popular online talent show was suspended last week days before its season finale. People were seen dumping out large quantities of milk products that had been purchased solely for their bottle caps, which came with QR codes allowing people to vote for their favorite contestants on “You With You 3.”

Streaming site iQiyi, as well as the bottled milk manufacturer, apologized for causing an “undesirable social impact” after social media users and state media slammed the show for its thoughtless promotion. Last month, China also approved a law that would impose hefty fines for wasting food.

Fiercely loyal to their idols, China’s online fan groups engage in a variety of reputation-boosting activities. From online campaigns to elevate their chosen idol’s social media rankings to buying multiple copies of their albums or even donating to charities in their idol’s name, the groups are highly active online.

Fang Kecheng, an assistant professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong’s School of Journalism and Communication, told Sixth Tone that the rise of digital fan culture, along with some of the controversies such groups have courted, have made them targets for further scrutiny. Continue to read the full article here

– This article originally appeared on Sixth Tone.