Cantonese loses space on Chinese TikTok - Plataforma Media

Cantonese loses space on Chinese TikTok

A user with 4.6 million followers said in a later deleted video that Douyin’s inability to recognize Cantonese is “ridiculous” and that he will leave the platform “due to restrictions” imposed on those who speak the language, “including account blocking”.

Criticisms have rained by several users in recent weeks. Douyin responds that this is not a penalty for broadcasts in Cantonese, but a limitation on the software’s ability to recognize certain languages. The company also says that, to facilitate communication, its users should opt for Mandarin.

Anyone who does not follow these instructions runs the risk of being banned for “violating the codes of conduct for live broadcasts”.

After the newspaper HK01 asked if “the limitations of recognition of multiple languages” are due to the use of vulgar terms and sensitive topics of the Cantonese language, Douyin limited itself to saying that “some users may not understand [Cantonese]”.

A man holding a phone walks past a sign of Chinese company ByteDance’s app TikTok, known locally as Douyin, at the International Artificial Products Expo in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, China October 18, 2019. Picture taken October 18, 2019. REUTERS/Stringer

It should be noted that when ByteDance, parent company of TikTok, launched live broadcasts in 2018, it mentioned to the Washington Post that all its efforts would be directed towards building a system capable of recognizing several languages, with Cantonese being a priority. .

Guangdong is the Chinese province with the most users of Douyin, and Cantonese is one of the most important languages ​​in the region. However, those who use the platform have already received several alerts, and the blocking of accounts is not a new topic: the first reports started in 2020, but at that time the problem was mitigated through updates to the system.


Douyin and other platforms are subject to the same legal regulations, which sometimes results in adjustments to control measures. In 2000 it was stipulated by the Ministry of Information Industry that providers of online information services do not have the right to produce, copy, publish or share inappropriate information. Ten years later, with the implementation of the National Security Act, National Intelligence Act and Cybersecurity Act, none of the platforms can deny sharing information with authorities in the investigation of possible illegal acts.

In 2019, the Cyberspace Administration Office also issued the Regulations on the Administration of Online Information, which established obligations and penalties for content creators, as well as their platforms and users. Online information is divided into three categories: positive information, illegal information and inappropriate information.

From traditional news agencies to online platforms, supervision of their users and improvement of monitoring systems are required. To identify certain problematic content, keywords are generally used. However, live broadcasts are a completely different format.


In Macau, a person responsible for a live broadcasting center, who is anonymous, says that even with good hardware, it is necessary to take into account the capacity of the monitoring system. This center chose to use Taobao as the main channel, which only has Cantonese speakers and has not been restricted so far. The same source explains that this platform has a well-developed monitoring tool, through Alibaba Cloud.

If there is inappropriate language during a live, the live is interrupted. In this streaming center, training is given to presenters and they have to understand the regulations of the Interior, including the right to publicity. Therefore, product promotion itself should not be exaggerated.

Taobao, being a commercial platform, has a specific audience. “To sell a product, we have to take into account the fact that some people may not understand us. That’s why we speak half of the time in Cantonese and the other in Mandarin”, says the official.


More than 600 million people use Douyin in China. Kaukeinews – a private channel dedicated to Guangdong’s public affairs – says it is not the first time it has received alerts. The fact that it is an entertainment platform presupposes a freer way of expressing itself. However, the use of Cantonese is repeatedly in the spotlight.

One of its users says that language recognition is “so that artificial intelligence can analyze our dialogues and learn from them”.

Another says it is “more of an inability to translate than recognition. Several companies have good dialogue identification systems, as is the case of iFlytek, capable of transcribing in multiple languages. Even when the system does not recognize them, transcription can be done manually. The problem is that the people who read them don’t always know Cantonese.”

People are used to communicating in their native language through social networks, he points out.

One of the banned users threatened to leave Douyin, encouraging others to do the same.

“Without broadcasts in Cantonese, people will naturally watch live broadcasts in other languages”, he assumes. In reality, leaving the platform will only affect the Cantonese-speaking population.”

Cantonese content is already scarce, what do we gain from reducing the number of people in contact with the language?”.

“This cycle of banned and recovered accounts is common on social media. Some people choose to criticize, but the public ends up getting fed up, thinking: What are you complaining about now? Account not recovered?”.

Lin adds that there may not be any roadblocks in the future, but that it will eventually happen again. The user believes that the public is used to Douyin and will not sacrifice entertainment for the language.

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