But now Singapore-headquartered Bigo is facing serious obstacles in its potentially most lucrative market, Indonesia.
The Indonesian IT ministry is blocking access to Bigo’s site because some of its live content violates Indonesia’s strict rules against the display of nudity.
Live video channels on Bigo are almost always flirtatious if not openly suggestive. It’s basically pretty girls – and some guys – coaxing viewers into showering them with virtual gifts. Gifts which the broadcaster can later turn into real cash.
The incentive to attract attention by showing a little too much skin or being vulgar in other ways is high.
So far, the ministry’s attempt to block Bigo doesn’t really have teeth.
It has only blocked Domain Name Servers (DNS) associated with Bigo. DNS blocking makes it difficult for users to find content but doesn’t remove the content itself.
What’s more, it’s only effective on the web. Bigo’s app – where most of the action happens anyway – still functions.
And while the site isn’t accessible from the network of Indonesia’s largest telco, Telkomsel, it seems that some other internet service providers have yet to follow through on the DNS block.
Bigo’s creators, however, heard the warning shot.
According to local media, Bigo CEO David Li immediately met with Indonesian IT minister Rudiantara.
“They will form a legal entity in Indonesia and recruit Indonesian staff to manage the content,” the minister reportedly said after the meeting. “We support their attempt to achieve this and we’ll wait for their more detailed plan.”
Taming the community
It’s not like Bigo isn’t already trying to keep its naughty user base disciplined.
Once you log in, a banner with “rules” flashes across the screen, linking to a set of community guidelines. Pretty much everything is forbidden: It’s forbidden to comment on, or insult, the state. It’s forbidden to broadcast shows which are suggestive of sex, pornography, politics, things that are threatening to health, and other illegal activities. It’s strongly forbidden to show sensitive body parts, like breasts, hips, and so on.
Each channel also flashes a message across the screen once you tune in, reminding viewers and broadcasters to stay polite, and that nudity and pornography will get you banned.
We’ve contacted Bigo to learn what else it plans to do to crack down on violations of the app’s code of conduct.
What about other live broadcasting tools?
How this case plays out will be of interest to apps with similar concepts, like Paktor. But big social networks that allow live streaming, like Twitter and Facebook, should also follow closely. They could find themselves in this situation if they don’t find ways to deal with what Indonesia considers inappropriate content at scale.
Indonesia has permanently blocked some major international internet services, like Vimeo and Reddit, because these failed to comply with Indonesia’s nudity regulations.
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