When viral streamer Your Highness Qiaobiluo showed her real face during a live broadcast, revealing herself as a middle-aged woman, she probably didn’t think that it would land her on an industry blacklist that forbids her from live streaming for five years.

The streamer had previously racked up tens of thousands of followers by using filters that made her appear to be a young woman with a soft, sweet voice. Now she’s been caught up in a tool the government is increasingly using to combat streamers accused of bad behavior.

When it was revealed Your Highness Qiaobiluo looked like the woman on the right, not the filtered image on the left, her follower count went up. (Picture: Weibo/Douyu)

Blacklists for live streamers are composed by the Online Live Performance (Streaming) Branch of the China Association of Performing Arts (CAPA), which is run by China’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism. The lists are populated with hosts accused of using live streaming to spread vulgar information, maliciously generate hype, disrupt public order or conduct other activities that are against the law, according to CAPA.

Since the first blacklist was released in March 2018, 122 live streamers have been banned. The third and latest batch released August 6 included 59 new names, Qiaobiluo included.

Live streamers at an event in Beijing in October 2017. (Picture: Wu Hong/EPA-EFE)

That might seem like a harsh punishment for someone who simply showed her face online, but that’s reportedly not what got her banned. The 58-year-old woman later said the unveil was a carefully planned stunt designed to attract followers.

While the stunt worked, steaming platform Douyu wasn’t amused. The platform shut down her account and removed all her videos, saying she had caused “adverse social impact.”

Another new addition is Beibei, a rapper and member of the hip hop group Honghuahui. His account ban added insult to injury after he chopped off his little finger during a live session. Honghuahui subsequently disbanded.

Now that they’ve been blacklisted, they can’t use any Chinese live streaming platforms for five years. But that’s not the only consequence. The lists also display live streamers’ names and ID numbers, albeit with some characters x-ed out.

It's not clear if being blacklisted hurts a live streamer’s social credit, but China’s live streaming regulation does call on service providers to create a “credit rating management system.”

Stricter censorship and waning user interest is now taking a toll on China’s live streaming industry. In 2018, China’s total number of live streaming users declined 6% from the previous year to 396 million. It’s the only online service category that saw a decline, according to an annual internet report by CNNIC.

Authorities aren’t concerned, though. They’re doubling down on regulating the industry. If things get confusing, CAPA members now have a manual that describes what’s inappropriate for live streaming. The association is also training live streamers, with more than 30,000 people participating in the first session. Of those, 1,500 passed the exam and received a live streaming license, state news outlet Xinhua reported.