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Technology

‘China’s Twitch’ Huya bans live streaming of passengers by ride-hailing drivers after public backlash

Drivers on a Chinese ride-hailing platform have live streamed their female passengers, provoking public outcry

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 30 August, 2018, 1:17pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 30 August, 2018, 11:06pm

Huya, China’s answer to the game-streaming site Twitch, has banned the live streaming of passengers by private-hire car drivers after a public backlash over posts by at least two users in the wake of a safety crisis involving ride-hailing apps.

“Drivers are banned from live streaming any interaction with passengers such as prying into their privacy or endangering safety while driving,” New York-listed Huya said on its official Weibo social media account on Wednesday. The ban extends to private meetings with passengers outside the car.

Didi drivers involved in at least a dozen sexual assault cases

Huya said the decision is in line with its responsibility to ensure “healthy content, defend core values and provide high-quality live streaming experience”. Any violation would face severe punishment and be reported to supervisory departments, the Guangzhou-based company said.

The ban came after the Beijing Youth Daily reported Huya users had live streamed their in-car conversations with passengers, apparently without their knowledge. The posts attracted widespread criticism online, coming days after a Didi driver confessed to killing his female passenger, which had sparked a nationwide debate over the safety of ride-hailing platforms.

A review of public court records by the South China Morning Post showed Didi drivers were convicted in at least a dozen sexual assault cases in the past three-and-a-half years.

In the Huya posts in question, one live streaming host who identified himself as a driver for DiDa Chuxing (not to be confused with Didi) showed the profile photos of female fares and asked his viewers which one to pick. When he subsequently picked up the passenger, he stopped interacting with his live streaming viewers but did not tell her that she was being live streamed.

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During the car ride, he chatted up the passenger, asking her age, occupation and whether she needed water or had eaten. Most comments in the live streaming chat room were obscene comments directed at the passenger, according to the report. The number of viewers also quickly rose from about 1,000 to more than 20,000 after the passenger got in the car.

Another live streaming driver kept asking for his female passenger’s WeChat social media account and expressed a desire to court her, despite the passenger repeatedly saying she already had a boyfriend. Instead of stopping, the driver became more sexually explicit in his language and harassed the passenger with vulgar language, according to the report.

As of Thursday noon, a search of related terms on Huya returned no content matching that described in the newspaper report, suggesting the live streams may have been removed.

DiDa did not immediately respond to emailed queries. Huya could not immediately be reached.

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Live streaming hosts make money through tips or “virtual gifts” that are exchangeable for cash. Keen competition has meant that some hosts have taken to saying and doing outrageous things to attract viewers. Chinese regulators have tightened their oversight of the streaming industry, cracking down on content deemed inappropriate.