Tencent sued by Chinese NGO for 'inappropriate content for minors' in Honor of Kings game

Tencent has been slapped with a lawsuit from Chinese public interest group Beijing Teenagers Law Aid and Research Center for allegedly having “inappropriate content for minors” in its popular game Honor of Kings. The public interest group said on its official WeChat account that this is the first time a social organisation in China has initiated a civil public interest lawsuit for the protection of minors.

Beijing Teenagers Law Aid and Research Center alleged that Tencent has progressively lowered the recommended age limit for Honor of Kings from 18+ in 2017 to 16+ and more recently to 12+ this year. However, the public interest group said the game’s content and settings do not meet the age appropriate 12+ recommendations in terms of character images, lottery rules and chat channels.

Also, the group said on its WeChat account that the characters in the game are too revealing and that Honor of Kings’ website and community contain plenty of “pornographic and vulgar content” that are inappropriate for minors. This is exemplified through the low-cut clothing, shorts and shorts worn by female characters, as well as outfits that “excessively expose the chest”, Beijing Teenagers Law Aid and Research Center said.

Additionally, the game also allegedly “distorts historical figures”. For example, poet Li Bai and military strategist Han Xin fall in love in the game, while military strategist Zhuge Liang and another historical figure Da Qiao are portrayed as a couple. According to Beijing Teenagers Law Aid and Research, the portrayal of the historical characters in such a manner “tramples on the nation’s culture”, while the pornographic and vulgar comments can easily mislead minors who have yet to form the correct values. Also, Despite this, the public interest group alleged that Tencent has not taken measures to delete or block such content.

Another area of concern for the public interest group is the in-game lottery which it said will cause minors to be addicted and play the game longer. MARKETING-INTERACTIVE has reached out to Tencent for comment.

Last November, Reuters reported that Honor of Kings had 100 million daily active users worldwide. Meanwhile in March 2019, market intelligence company Sensor Tower said Honor of Kings grossed an estimated US$4.5 billion globally on the App Store and Google Play since its launch in October 2015. 

This latest suit coincides with an antitrust crackdown on Tencent reported by Reuters in April for allegedly not properly reporting past acquisitions and investments for antitrust reviews. Quoting its sources, Reuters reported that Tencent is expected to face a penalty of at least US$1.54 billion. While this is less than the US$2.75 billion fine that Alibaba was slapped with in April, Reuters' sources said it is "significant enough" for the State Administration of Market Regulation to make an example of. Reuters added that some of Tencent's businesses are also being investigated for anti-competitive practices, and according to its sources, music streaming is a particular focus for the crackdown.  

Photo courtesy: 123RF

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