Custom-made videos of African children hugely popular on Taobao

Short videos showing a group of African children saying custom-made messages in Chinese have gone viral on local social media.

Short videos showing a group of African children saying Chinese sentences or slogans which are written on blackboards have gone viral on Chinese social media.

The videos come from vendors who promise customers in China that their blessings or slogans will be read by African children, for a fee.

The content on the boards can express love, make an apology, send birthday blessings, or promote products or services — it's all based on the customers' requirements.

Such videos are often within 20 seconds, and feature African kids holding a small blackboard while repeating Chinese words after someone off-camera.

The service is now very popular on Alibaba's retail site Taobao. Each video is sold at the cost of 150 yuan to 220 yuan. If the customer doesn't need the voice service, a single photo costs at least 10 yuan on the e-commerce platform.

Vendors claimed that the videos were shot by Chinese people in African countries such as Zambia as a kind of public welfare project. Local children who appeared in the footage could receive some snacks, stationery or several yuan as remuneration whenever they finishing a video, which allegedly could help improve their living conditions.

"I can't earn a lot of money through this, but I hope that African children can live better through this service," a vendor told a reporter.

Many web users applauded the creative service in customer reviews and remarked it was valuable as they could receive blessings while at the same time helping African children to live a better life.

However, an agent who is responsible for the video promotion admitted that though African children could obtain remuneration, most money was still shared by the person who shot the video and the vendor.

After an investigation, a reporter from Beijing Youth Daily found some videos that vendors shared online included indecent words and some were promoting problematic live video streaming platforms and WeChat accounts that are suspected of having pornographic content.

Most of the vendors said that other than the word count being no more than 20 or 25, they wouldn't limit the content of advertising slogans in the video. "The African children just repeat [what they are told] and they can't understand Chinese, so it has no influence on them."

When asked whether such video products are in accordance with relevant regulations, the customer service center of Taobao replied on Sunday that they couldn't rule out the possibility that some vendors may break advertising rules or damage the normal trading order of Taobao. If any violations were found, the vendors would face punishment. 

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