An online game in which the hero must take the base of the enemy is the new “spiritual opiate” of Chinese youth to be fought, according to the government of China on Honor of Kings, e-sport (electronic sport) that has turned fever throughout the world. Asia and that moves millions of Yuan.
It’s not just any metaphor: it refers to the drug introduced by the British to addict and dominate the Chinese in the 19th century, a passage that has been cherished until today by China, which gave rise to what they call the “century of humiliation”.
To prevent an epidemic of addicts, the government of “Papa Xi”, as the state press sometimes refers to the country’s leader, decided to impose a limit of one hour of game per day on Fridays and weekends — this in the periods of class; on vacation, you are free to play for 1 hour every day of the week.
The limit came just as the country announced it would include classes on the political doctrine of Xi Jinping, the country’s most powerful leader in decades, in the school curriculum.
The online gaming period limitation is the most recent (and noisy) in a series of initiatives the Chinese Communist Party has taken on the internet.
The country, which already controls the network, censors sensitive discussions and blocks certain websites, has now made what experts consider a kind of revolution, including aspects that are praised and that can be adopted elsewhere.
The most impactful novelty was the approval by Congress of new legislation to protect personal data, which prevents the collection without prior consent and regulates the storage of private information.
Another project, still an idea under discussion, wants to impose stricter rules for the use of recommendation algorithms by online platforms, which provide suggestions according to what the user usually watches or researches.
These algorithms are targeted by internet specialists and political scientists in general for creating bubbles and facilitating, in some cases, the radicalization of political positions, practices that companies like Google and Facebook have been accused of allowing at least since the election of former US president Donald Trump.
The China Cyberspace Administration’s proposals include the possibility of disabling the recommendations, prohibiting price discrimination based on history, and the need for internet authority approval when the algorithm could influence public opinion.
Director of the Data Privacy Brazil Research Association, Rafael Zanatta says that it is possible to analyze the measures from different perspectives.
First, for an advance over the country’s tech giants, such as Tencent (owner of the most popular online games and the WeChat app), in a way for the government to “show who’s boss”.
There is also, in the interest of establishing itself as a power, the desire to export a regulatory model, something that Europe has done in the last decade with strict laws on what technology companies can collect from the user.
But regulation also “accompanies profound transformations in Chinese society”, which for millennia values the collective over the individual, but which has been “contaminated” by Western values in recent decades, which tend towards greater individualization.
“This led to the approval of a Civil Code that has a specific chapter on personality rights, which includes the right to the protection of personal data.”
Professor at FGV Direito Rio and coordinator of the Center for Technology and Society at FGV, Luca Belli says that China is doing what several Western countries have tried to do: “framing” the technology giants — which is much easier in a government authoritarian.
Among the interesting elements of the new legislation, he highlights the obligation for internet platforms to have advice from external experts who can assess and guide data use policies, algorithm management and information security, in line with what was created by Facebook a year ago.
Even the imposition on how many hours teenagers can play video games makes sense, he says, as it is a public health issue, also discussed in Western countries.
“It is common to regulate products made to create dependency, as Brazil did with casinos. The regulation of games affects teenagers, who have extremely fragile psychological defenses”, says Belli, who researches the internet in the countries of the Brics, a bloc formed by Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.
The restriction, of course, provoked reactions among the Chinese, with rejection especially among the younger ones.
“They say games are the new spiritual opiate. Either their self-control is bad, or their parents are not able to raise their children well. I formed my character through games and made a lot of good friends. Although I hardly play anymore these days, the years I spent in Internet cafes were the happiest of my life,” wrote a young man on the Weibo social network.
New law requires consent for companies to collect personal data, imposes regulatory rules and limits information to be collected to a minimum
Government limits it to 1 hour a day, only on Fridays and on weekends, a period when minors can play on the internet —in the middle of the night it was already prohibited. On vacation, however, it is allowed to play every day.
Still under discussion, the idea allows to disable recommendations and prohibit companies from discriminating prices according to user behavior
Investigation against giants
Government investigates ‘tycoons’, such as Didi (owner of 99 in Brazil), for allegedly violating the privacy of users and wants to prohibit companies that store large amounts of data from opening operations on foreign stock exchanges