Tencent Sued over Honor of Kings Game for Alleged Violations of Minors’ Rights

Tencent has been sued by a Chinese public interest group on June 1 following accusations of providing “inappropriate content for minors” in its popular mobile game Honor of Kings.

The group, Beijing Teenagers Law Aid and Research Center, filed a lawsuit to the Beijing First Intermediate People’s Court on Tuesday, claiming that the Tencent-operated mobile game Honor of Kings involves multiple violations of minors’ rights. Allegations range from its abuse of children’s rights to mental and physical health, as well as inappropriate content and graphics.

According to Tencent, Honor of Kings has reached over 100 million daily active users by the end of 2020, and is the world’s most popular mobile game. It is also the highest-grossing mobile game of all time, pocketing $257.5 million in user spending, as reported by Sensor Tower in March.

The game has reportedly changed its age rating multiple times since its release. In 2016, it was deemed suitable only for those over 18 years old. In 2017, the “18+” rating was adjusted to “16+”. Earlier this year, it was further lowered to “12+”.

Despite lowering the user age limit, the accusing group pointed out that the game continues to contain elements unfit for younger users, including its character design, raffle rules and chatting functions.

Female characters, in particular, are often depicted with “low-cut tops and short bottomwear,” which the group finds to be overly revealing. It is also asserted that the use of historical figure names and inaccurate character relationships showed a lack of respect for traditional culture that could be misleading for minors.

The game’s online community was also said to be underregulated, resulting in an overflow of inappropriate comments. Its credit purchase and raffle processes were also alleged to encourage irrational consumption behaviors.

Tencent has yet to respond to the matter.

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This is the first time that a public interest group has filed for civil public litigation regarding minors’ protection in China, the group reported.

The lawsuit serves as a statement in favor of China’s newly amended Law on the Protection of Minors, which came into effect on the same day. The amendments have highlighted the importance of internet protection, with clauses prohibiting those under the age of 16 from opening streaming channels and suggesting that platforms implement mechanisms to regulate minors’ online spending, among other considerations.

Platforms including WeChat, Tmall, and TikTok have responded positively to the law’s promulgation by enabling teen modes and content filters to further ensure the rights of young users.