China infiltrates children’s video games with propaganda and spyware

With many rightly concerned about the growing influence of video-based social media platform TikTok and the Chinese government’s ability to harvest incredible amounts of user data from it, the biggest studio China’s social media and video game company, Tencent, has quietly acquired a dominant stake. in the world’s most popular video game companies, and no one seemed to notice.

From Riot Games’ flagship title Valorant to the popular Fortnite produced by Epic Games, Tencent and the Chinese Communist Party are inserting propaganda and influencing a generation of children around the world while their parents aren’t watching.

Last week, Tencent announced plans to acquire a larger stake in French studio Ubisoft, which is behind popular titles such as Assassin’s Creed and Rainbow Six Siege.

In 2018, Tencent acquired 5% of the studio and then began to influence the company. For example, in 2021, Ubisoft made visual changes to some games in order to be able to sell them in China. Changes included the removal of in-game symbolism and skulls from playable environments. However, the company was forced to revert these changes after players in North America and Europe promised never to play the game again if the changes persisted.

While China-friendly changes to some titles have been rolled back after fans expressed outrage, it’s evident that game studios are growing increasingly worried about pleasing Tencent and the Chinese Communist Party. With that in mind, Tencent’s quest to become Ubisoft’s largest private shareholder should not be taken lightly.

During the coronavirus pandemic, Ubisoft has released many story games and online experiences for children who have been forced to learn at home. As many gamers have noted, titles such as Assassin’s Creed possess remarkable educational value thanks to their accurate modeling of historic cities and landmarks. And with the quality of our education system deteriorating, it’s no surprise that kids and parents alike are turning to video games to aid in learning.

As Ubisoft continues to improve these story games and educational experiences, the Chinese Communist Party’s ability to influence and shape these foundational narratives presents a direct threat to children everywhere.

Concerns about weaponizing the narrative stories of video games into propaganda only scratch the surface of Tencent’s active campaign to conquer your home.

In 2020, the online community highlighted the spyware-like anti-cheat software used in Valorant. The so-called anti-cheat software would launch when your computer starts, whether the user has opened the game or not, and monitor all user activity, recording the programs used. This software broke with the industry standard and was seen as an invasion of user privacy.

While Riot Games was quick to deny the allegations and change its software design, many remained skeptical. After all, this is the same company that hid a data breach of millions of accounts from its users. Even more alarmingly, in March 2019, it was revealed that more than 300 million user messages sent to Tencent platforms and games were stored on a database used by Chinese police.

Tencent has established itself as an essential tool of the Chinese Communist Party. The video game company used its games to spy on Americans and used its digital content to spread propaganda to our children. He took advantage of the lack of technological knowledge of parents across the country, directly putting the privacy of their data and their children at risk.

One of the big threats facing American children online is Tencent’s quiet rise to global digital dominance. From TikTok to Tencent and your child’s favorite video game, China is committed to influencing our children and stealing our private data. It is essential that parents begin to take a more active role in reducing their children’s online gambling.

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John C. Dent