Douyin's facial recognition tech blocks foreigner from livestream

TikTok's Chinese twin blocks foreigner within 1 minute of Chinese wife's livestream

Douyin logo. (Internet image)

Douyin logo. (Internet image)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — A foreign national in China suddenly found himself being kicked off Douyin (抖音), the Chinese version of TikTok, after appearing for only one minute, for being a non-registered foreigner.

On Wednesday (July 8), Twitter user Joshua Dummer, who lives in China, wrote that during a livestream run by his wife, she pointed the camera at his face. Dummer said that within "about a minute" a notice appeared informing him that foreigners who have not applied for permission in advance are not permitted to participate in live broadcasts.

He said the Douyin account continued to broadcast for another minute before being taken offline. A second notice appeared which stated the stream had been shut down because of the appearance of a foreigner who had not applied for permission in advance.

It then listed the "penalty for the violation" would be a 10-minute ban from streaming. Dummer confirmed the account was blocked from streaming for the 10 minutes.

The mystery discussed in some of the comments below was to what extent Dummer's swift detection was executed by artificial intelligence facial recognition, as opposed to human monitors. If Dummer's face was detected by AI, it begs the questions of what "racial" facial features is it looking for and would it be able to detect a foreign national of East Asian descent?

Reports of foreigners being blocked from live-streaming began surfacing in February of 2017, as Chinese officials began to enforce regulations that went into effect in January of that year requiring foreigners to apply to the Ministry of Culture for permission to run live-streaming channels. According to the law, the broadcasts themselves also must prove to “be beneficial to the promotion of socialist core values.”

On May 4 of this year, AriaAndBrandon, a pair of vloggers comprising a Chinese female and an Australian male who post livestreams on the Chinese e-commerce app from Melbourne, Australia, found a similar banner notice appear on their feed. The banner warned that if they continued to feature foreigners, the channel could face a permanent ban.

On their Weibo post, the duo included a screenshot posted by a vlogger who claimed they were banned from Douyin for featuring foreigners. Another Weibo user reported in March that a foreign instructor was suspended from Douyin while teaching an English lesson for a school, according to PingWest.