Exclusive: Documents reveal how TikTok's Chinese version, Douyin, uses facial recognition to police foreigners. And that's just the start
Comically affronted parents, drunken piano concerts and viral conspiracy theories about trafficked children hidden in wardrobes: it's a fairly ordinary evening on TikTok, the video-sharing app enjoyed by more than 500m people across the Western world.
Things do not seem so different on Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok, where a live streaming boom has minted new social media millionaires. Behind the scenes, however, Chinese streamers are subject to an elaborate regime of automated surveillance and censorship.
One system can use facial recognition to scan live streamers' broadcasts and guess their age, reporting them to a human moderator if they appear under 16.
Another checks whether users' faces match their state ID cards before letting them stream, automatically excluding foreigners and people from Hong Kong.