China's e-commerce platforms ban keyword search for Squid Game-related products

China's e-commerce platforms ban keyword search for Squid Game-related products

The Netflix series
The Netflix series "Squid Game" is played on a mobile phone in this picture illustration taken Sept 30, 2021. (Reuters photo)

China's major e-commerce platforms have apparently banned keyword search for products related to hit Netflix show Squid Game , which has prompted merchants to devise workarounds for consumers to find these goods online.

An online check by the South China Morning Post yielded no results for a keyword search using "Squid Game" on Taobao Marketplace, JD.com and Pinduoduo. Taobao, China's largest online shopping platform, is operated by Alibaba Group Holding, which owns the South China Morning Post.

Alibaba, Pinduoduo and JD.com did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Tuesday.

Products related to Squid Game - a dystopian South Korean drama series that became a global hit upon its release in September - can still be found on those major Chinese shopping platforms by using alternative keywords such as "squid mask", "Halloween costume" and "Korea" to search, according to the South China Morning Post's online check.

An online toy merchant surnamed Zeng, who is based in Yiwu city in eastern Zhejiang province, said he found out on Monday that his Squid Game-related products could not be seen on the major e-commerce platforms using the show's title as a keyword search.

"We tried other words such as 'squid mask', which worked [to search for our products]," said Zeng, who did not want to use his full name because of potential copyright issues. "Based on our experience, only 'Squid Game' can't be used to search on these platforms."

Zeng said he only listed Squid Game-related merchandise in his online store to help generate more traffic in light of the show's huge popularity in China, where the show has not been officially released because of Beijing's strict content licensing rules.

The search workarounds provided by online merchants show that Squid Game's wide popularity is likely to continue generating a windfall for them in the foreseeable future.

Factories in mainland China are busy churning out Squid Game -related products for domestic and overseas shoppers to capitalise on the hit show. These goods include the black face masks, jumpsuits and track kits used by the characters in the nine-episode survival drama television series.

Although Netflix is unavailable in mainland China, tens of thousands of internet users in the country have found readily available information on where to watch Squid Game illegally, including illicit streaming video sites, peer-to-peer downloads and cloud storage providers.

An executive at Chinese streaming video platform iQiyi, which is majority-owned by Baidu, said there will not be a Chinese adaptation of Squid Game because the show is too dark and its ideology does not fit the country's mainstream values.

A Hangzhou-based online merchant, who declined to be named, said it was unknown how long Squid Game's popularity will last, but sellers must cash in on the current opportunity.

Zeng, the merchant from Yiwu, indicated that there has been no outstanding growth in traffic on his online store since he listed Squid Game-related products. "I think it's approaching the end [of its popularity," he said.

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