25 October 2016
Taiwanese Jeffrey Huang, founder of 17, finds that his app provides both opportunities and risks. Photo: Internet
Taiwanese Jeffrey Huang, founder of 17, finds that his app provides both opportunities and risks. Photo: Internet

Pornography for cash: How a popular app is abused

The social networking app “17” has become so popular in Hong Kong.

Soon after it was introduced from Taiwan, 17 became the most downloaded free mobile application in the App Store. The name 17 should be pronounced as yi qi, which means “together” in Chinese.

The functions include photo and video sharing as well as a featured live broadcast which attracts a lot of users. The interface looks like that of Instagram with Chinese as the system language.

The app has a bonus mechanism, enabling users to profit from live broadcasts if their audience is big enough. The logic behind is that content producers should share in the app’s advertising income.

If your video has on average 1,000 viewers, you can get US$1 credit in your account. However, you can only get the cash after you have accumulated US$100 or more credits.

That means only those who produce content with more than 100,000 viewers can actually get the money.

Along with the rule, potential problems and abuses emerge.

Some people use the app solely for money. And in order to attract as many viewers as possible, some provide indecent or pornographic content through the live broadcast while others record a live football game on television and re-broadcast it on the app, which could be a violation of the copyright law.

The app was recently taken down from the App Store as well as Android stores, but it’s not hard to find downloads on the internet and the app itself is still working.

17 is just a social networking platform. In cases of abuse, content providers are to blame.

It is no different from a scalpel, which a doctor uses to do surgery and save a patient’s life.

But if someone uses it to kill people, the seller or manufacturer of the scalpel should not bear any responsibility.

So when users upload indecent content to the social networking platform, they should be aware of the consequences and their legal liability.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Oct. 6.

Translation by Myssie You

[Chinese version中文版]

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