August 2nd, 2017: Users of the popular live streaming app, MOMO, reported they were no longer able to broadcast live video streams while outside of China. Overseas-based live streamers were able initiate live stream sessions but all outgoing audio and video was blocked. However, somewhat ironically, when users used a VPN (virtual private network) app to tunnel internet connections into China, the live stream broadcast ability was restored, indicating an IP-level blockage of foreign-based streamers. Tunneling with a VPN app to a Hong Kong based server however was not able to unblock outgoing live streams. VPN apps are typically used by netizens in China to tunnel internet connections out of China to access censored websites and apps such as Facebook and Google.
The move to block live streamers comes at a time as China seeks to control the flow of information on the internet in accordance with new cyber security laws that went into effect on June 1st of this year. Live streaming audio and video was subsequently banned on three social media platforms: Weibo, ifeng, and ACFUN. Recently, Apple was made to comply with cyber security regulations by removing VPN apps from the Chinese App store. Live streaming is already highly regulated in China, as live streamers on MOMO are required to register with their national IDs. This new restriction on live streamers is expected to negatively affect overseas users that use the app to generate income through the app’s virtual gift giving business model.
MOMO is one of many popular live streaming apps in China. The company, which went public in 2014, posted $553.1 million in revenue in 2016, 80 percent of which was generated through its live streaming service.