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5 facts about China’s virtual influencers

Trustworthy opinion leaders, who never get into scandals, never complain, have no limitations and are always up for the job. This is the promesse carried by the new generation of virtual influencers in China. 

But who are those virtual influencers, loved by brands and threatening to overtake KOLs completely ? Discover 5 facts you might not know about this new wave of opinion leaders through my video, which you can watch here.

Sources :

  • Jing Daily : Introducing China’s Top Virtual Idols: Ayayi and Luo Tianyi, 2021
  • That’s Mag : Meet Ayayi: China’s First ‘Meta-human’ Virtual Influencer, 2021
  • Dague Consulting : The many faces of virtual influencers in China: Vocaloids, KOLs, KOCs, idols and brand ambassadors, 2021
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Infographic : The Chinese digital music industry

The Chinese digital music industry is one of the largest and fastest growing in the world. However, it has had its shares of controversies and lived through major piracy outbreaks. So how did the industry manage to come back stronger and more innovative than ever ?

The industry was once crawling under online piracy, with the traffic of illegal and unlicensed online MP3 files. Before the infamous Sword Net Action, operation meant to control and slow down counterfeit goods and IP infringements in 2010, 99% of China’s digital music was pirated. In 2015, the operation extended to unlicensed songs and 2.2 million were removed from the internet. Following those measure, the industry was quick to adapt and lived a 113.2% growth that same year.

Get a closer look in figures in one of China’s most promising industry in my infographic on LinkedIN.

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The marriage crisis in China

In one of the most digitized country in the world, tradition still prevails. And in China, less and less couple are getting married. In 2020, there was a 12% drop from 2019 in weddings, a rate which has fallen every year since 2013. This is due to a staggering gender imbalance in the Chinese population. Decades of the one-child policy has made a tremendous impact on the society, and Chinese people have slowly eliminated the desire for marriage and children. We have now identified a true marriage crisis in China.

Leftover women 

In China, they call single educated women aged over twenty-seven years old, « Sheng-nu ». This literally means ‘leftover women’. The label is now an entire social status in the society. This is due to conservative beliefs that unmarried women past 30 are less desirable and committing a moral transgression. In the media, they are portrayed as lonely, desperate and flawed. This stigma has put tremendous pressure on many women to get married. But women are fighting back this derogatory term. These women don’t protest, they use their economic power to prove their worth and importance in the society. They try to break the stigma that they have a miserable life by highlighting the perks such as their freedom.  The financial freedom especially helps them redefine their place in the Chinese society. They use their money to buy themselves things or purchase gifts for their parents. This way they positively transform their image in the eyes of their parents.

Leftover men

There is approximatively 35 million more single men than women. Mainly attributed to China’s one-child policy, in effect from 1979 to 2015, this has created a major gender imbalance over generations. This problem is even more alarming in the country side. Women often move away to marry men with better situation in more metropolitan areas. ‘Leftover men’ or  « shengnan » are also called « guang gun ». This literally means bare branches, it refers to men who do not marry and thus do not add ‘branches’ to the family tree. And while leftover women willingly put off marriage to focus on their career, education and enjoy their status, leftover men in China are eager to get married. Chinese men face strong economic pressure as well as traditional family stress. They feel a huge guilt and fear to disappoint their parents by ending their lineage.

The government’s pressure

The government has noticed this marriage crisis and has been continually taking actions to stimulate dating. More recently, they have put in place rather agressive campaigns to remedy the situation of those leftover men and women. The local government of Xiangyin, a rural Hunan county even created a plan to urge women to stay and marry their local bachelor. They specify that leftover men’s situation are a ‘social issue’ that requires ‘urgent attention’.

“Education and guidance should be provided to make women born in rural regions feel passionate about their hometowns and willing to improve the environment they grew up in”

The government promised to simplify the marriage registration process. Through these actions, they hope to popularize a new wave of “modest” dating and marriage in rural China. In addition, over the past few years, campaigns have been surfacing to warn women against the dangers of becoming a leftover women and pressure them into marriage. 

Singles day

Despite the efforts of the government and the pressure from their peers, women in China are more and more confident about their legitimacy in the society. Women between 24 and 34 have become one of the largest contributors to the country’s growth. Indeed, women are responsible for 41% of China’s GDP, the largest proportion in the world. The Chinese market has noticed this trend and is capitalizing on the upsurge of single hood through the economy. In 2009, e-commerce powerhouse Alibaba invented the « Single’s Day ». This celebration is an anti-valentine’s day, whose goal is to empower single people. The celebration, held on 11/11, became the biggest shopping festival in the world, surpassing by far Black Friday. For women, the economic power is a way to have a voice. They get the chance to spent money on themselves and their loved ones, which transforms and redefines their single hood has something they can be proud of. They promote an image of leftover women as successful, financially independent, morally honorable, and upright citizens.

SK-II #changedestiny campaign

Japanese beauty and skincare company SK-II has started a campaign named #changedestiny in order to empower the ‘leftover’ women to own their power and their place. The movement, based on female empowerment, focuses on particular pressures faced by women in their daily lives. Through a series of videos and articles, they encourage women to fight these stereotypes and overcome the pressures. This year, SK-II has been focusing on athletes and olympians to star in their campaigns. They highlight the stories of six successful female athletes in China, with the first one being Chinese swimmer Liu Xiang. This campaign represents a long running success that keeps reinventing and refreshing itself all the while sending strong messages of empowerment and taking a social stance for women everywhere. 

The marriage crisis in China highlights a major social imbalance that remains in the country. Years ago, the gender imbalance promoted the uprising of men through the one-child policy. Now however, women seem to have the upper hand. When the bachelor crisis pushes men in rural area to desperately get married, women enjoy a new found economical power and freedom and do see marriage as a priority. ‘Leftover women’ promote themselves as morally upright, economically independent, successful citizens. ‘Leftover men’ are powerless and under tremendous guilt and pressure. This showcases the contrast between the authority of Chinese tradition and culture against the global power of modernisation. And single women seem to be winning that battle.

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The future of music

Tech and digital innovations that are revolutionizing the music industry

The music industry might be one of the fastest changing industry on a digital level. This has an effect not only one the way we produce and distribute music, but also the way we consume it. Discover the three biggest technological and digital innovations that are revolutionizing the music industry in my article.

Read more about it here

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Tiktok $92 million settlement for data privacy

The dark side of TikTok’s data privacy

The app Tiktok has gained tremendous popularity over the past three years. Wether it is with users looking for entertainment or for businesses for which the app represents an amazing growth opportunity. However, the app is facing huge criticism for their data management methods, wether it is collection, use or privacy.  Indeed, Italy has already taken action and took down accounts of users below 13. Now it’s the USA’s turn to issue a class action lawsuit resulting in a $92 million settlement for data privacy.

The people of America VS. TikTok and ByteDance.

But now it’s the United States who are taking responsibility in calling Tiktok to order. Although the USA was never the biggest supporter of Tiktok, they had yet to take direct action against the company.

According to the USA’s federal law, a company can’t collect and use personal data without “sufficient notice and consent”. 21 different lawsuits have been filed against TikTok as well as its parent company, ByteDance. They allege the companies have “violated federal and state law by collecting and using” personal data without getting formal consent, and that they “infiltrates its users’ devices and extracts a broad array of private data including biometric data and content that defendants use to track and profile TikTok users for the purpose of, among other things, ad targeting and profit”. Therefore violating federal and state law and resulting in a class action suit. Many of these lawsuits have been filed on the behalf of children as young as 6 years old.

The lawsuits allege that biometric data have been collected and used as a “complex system of artificial intelligence to recognize facial features in users’ videos” and that it analyzes faces to “determine the user’s age, race/ethnicity, and gender … to recommend content and profiles for the user to follow”. This would violate the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act, entitling Illinois residents to individually sue the company.

This legal case, named TikTok, Inc., Consumer Privacy Litigation, is being overseen by the United States District Court.

TikTok avoids court at all costs and chooses settlement with data management.

Tiktok through its parent company has denied any wrongdoing but agreed to a settlement to avoid going to trial. They issued a statement explaining : “While we disagree with the assertions, rather than go through lengthy litigation, we’d like to focus our efforts on building a safe and joyful experience for the TikTok community”. It is important to note that the court has not ruled against Tiktok since the case has not went to trial.

The settlement, although not an admission of guilt, is for $92 million. It covers attorney fees, administrative fees and the settlement payment of individual eligible users who have filled the required form. Many users have already received a notification through the Tiktok app to inform them of this settlement and direct them to more information.

US citizen and their children who used the apps Tiktok and/or ByteDance before September 30th 2021, are eligible to receive compensation from Tiktok as the settlement for the case. Tiktok has given the opportunity to their American users to file an individual claim on a website before March 1st.

The settlement will get its final approval at the hearing on May 18th 2022 in the United States District Court. However, the amount of each compensation will largely vary according to the number of people filing a claim. If everyone eligible files a claim, each user would only be compensated of a few cents. Except for Illinois residents who are entitled to a larger compensation. But the settlement also obliges Tiktok to take measure to ensure that incidents like that will not happen again. Such as changing and disclosing its data collection practices.

Has this settlement taught Tiktok a data lesson ?

As part of the settlement, Tiktok will have to change and disclose data collection processes, and ask for proper approval. However, the company has taken some additional steps to reassure its community and protect the minors of the app. These protective actions target users aged 13 to 17 years old to insure a safer usage of the platform.

The app will ask teenagers under 16 to choose who can watch their videos before they can post them. Downloads of their content will be permanently disabled. Users aged 16 to 17 years old will be able to choose who can download their public videos. And their direct message options will be automatically set to « no one » with the possibility to change. Moreover the app will reduce the frequency at which minors receive notifications. For instance, users aged 13 to 15 won’t receive push notifications after 9 PM. And those aged 16 and 17 after 10PM.

These actions might not have been an act of good faith. Indeed, following the lawsuit, the Federal Trade Commission and US Justice Department have started investigating Tiktok. They are following allegations that TikTok failed to live up to a 2019 agreement aimed at protecting children’s privacies.

The big takeaway of this settlement

In September 2021, Tiktok reported 1 billion active users of the app worldwide, a 45% growth since July 2020, where the app reported 689 million active users on the platform. Tiktok is growing at a rapid pace and shows no sign of slowing down. It is mandatory to keep companies who collect such high sets of data from so many people in check, especially when there is no way to tell what they will do with it and what kind of danger it might trigger. We need to be aware and keep in mind the flip side of the coin, especially when it comes to data collection.