Tencent’s WeChat faces legal challenges over ‘youth mode’

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Beijing prosecutors said the “youth mode” feature offered on Tencent Holdings Ltd.’s versatile WeChat app. did not comply with Chinese law protecting minors.

The People’s Procuratorate of the Haidian District in Beijing, which houses Tencent’s headquarters in Beijing, filed a public interest civil action against the Shenzhen subsidiary Tencent Computer Systems on Friday. He said he would support organizations intending to bring such lawsuits and asked them to send comments to prosecutors within a month, according to a notice posted on a website affiliated with the highest Chinese prosecutor.

Youth Mode, introduced by Tencent last October, restricts access to features like videos, games, and payments for people under the age of 18. Wechat said in an online statement on Saturday that he had met with relevant prosecutors and regulators and learned that he would need to tighten access controls on the app.

Friday’s announcement comes at a time when Chinese tech giants already face increased regulatory scrutiny over alleged monopoly behavior as well as issues of financial stability, data security and labor protection. The regulatory review triggered a large sell-off of shares in companies such as Tencent, Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and Didi Global Inc.

China’s law on the protection of minors, a revised version of which entered into force in June, added rules to protect minors from internet addiction. This has fueled investor concerns that the law will give regulators even more power to disrupt a rapidly growing industry.

Chinese state media last week called the country’s online gaming industry an “opium for the mind” and criticized online platforms for promoting celebrity culture, sending e-mail. ‘actions by Tencent and its competitors and urging companies to apply stricter rules to protect minors.


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