Tencent is using facial recognition tech on under-18s to stop them playing video games late into the night

Ma Huateng, also known as Pony Ma, the CEO of Tencent looks into the distance while wearing a grey suit and blue tie.
Ma Huateng, also known as Pony Ma, is the chief executive of Tencent.

  • Tencent will use facial recognition to stop under-18s playing video games at night, it said Tuesday.
  • It said the “Midnight Patrol” system would initially be used for more than 60 of its video games.
  • In 2019, China introduced rules preventing minors playing video games between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m.
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Tencent will start using facial recognition technology to stop under-18s from playing video games into the night, it announced Tuesday.

Its system, called “Midnight Patrol,” will identify minors who are playing video games late at night – and boot them off the platform.

The system aims to prevent minors from posing as adults to circumvent a Chinese ban on late-night gaming sessions. It will initially work across more than 60 Tencent titles, the Chinese tech giant said.

In 2019, China introduced rules to curb video-game playing over concerns that young people were becoming addicted. The rules included a ban on under-18s playing between 10 p.m. and 8.a.m, a maximum of 90 minutes of playing time on weekdays, and monthly caps on in-game microtransactions, China’s General Administration of Press and Publication said in a notice.

Tencent said that it would conduct face-screening for accounts registered with real names that had played for a certain period of time at night, according to a translation of a company press release by Sixth Tone, a Chinese state-owned news site aimed at Western audiences.

Tencent will compare players’ faces against a government database of faces linked to China’s social security system, the Sixth Tone translation said.

Adults who are mistakenly kicked off the platform will be able to submit a new face scan, but those who refuse to be scanned will be removed, Tencent said in Tuesday’s translated release.

The tech giant began testing facial recognition software in late 2018 for randomly selected gamers who lived in Beijing and Shenzen and played the game Honour of Kings, the BBC reported. Young players used a number of tactics to try to fool the system, such as impersonating their grandparents when talking to the Tencent’s customer service, the company said in a release at the time.

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China will allow couples to have 3 children in a major policy shift designed to reverse shrinking birth rates

Xi Jinping
Chinese President Xi Jinping

  • China is now allowing married couples to have three children, up from the previous limit of two.
  • The new three-child policy is in response to a declining birthrate in China.
  • Experts say the main barrier to having children in China is the high cost of raising kids.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

China said on Monday that married couples may have up to three children, a major policy shift from the existing limit of two, after recent data showed a dramatic decline in births in the world’s most populous country.

Beijing scrapped its decades-old one-child policy in 2016, replacing it with a two-child limit that failed to trigger a sustained surge in births. Raising children in Chinese cities remains expensive.

“To further optimize the birth policy, (China) will implement a one-married-couple-can-have-three-children policy,” the official Xinhua news agency said in a report following a meeting chaired by President Xi Jinping.

The policy change will come with “supportive measures, which will be conducive to improving our country’s population structure, fulfilling the country’s strategy of actively coping with an ageing population and maintaining the advantage, endowment of human resources,” Xinhua reported.

It did not specify the support measures.

“People are held back not by the two-children limit, but by the incredibly high costs of raising children in today’s China. Housing, extracurricular activities, food, trips, and everything else add up quickly,” Yifei Li, a sociologist at NYU Shanghai, told Reuters.

“Raising the limit itself is unlikely to tilt anyone’s calculus in a meaningful way, in my view,” he said.

In a poll on Xinhua’s Weibo account asking #AreYouReady for the three-child policy, about 29,000 of 31,000 respondents said they would “never think of it,” while the remainder chose among the options: “I’m ready and very eager to do so,” “it’s on my agenda,” or “I’m hesitating and there’s lot to consider”.

The poll was later removed.

“I am willing to have three children if you give me 5 million yuan ($785,650),” one user posted.

Shares in birth- and fertility-related companies surged.

Early this month, China’s once-in-a-decade census showed that the population grew at its slowest rate during the last decade since the 1950s, to 1.41 billion. Data also showed a fertility rate of just 1.3 children per woman for 2020 alone, on a par with ageing societies such as Japan and Italy.

China’s politburo also said it would phase in delays in retirement ages, but did not provide any details.

Fines of 130,000 yuan ($20,440) were being imposed on people for having a third child as of late last year.

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