The rise of live-streamed sales, a new mode of e-commerce by which consumers can directly shop via the links included in live-streamed videos, have provided a powerful tool for the revival of China's vast rural areas. Many villagers have made their personal live-stream channels public to sell farm products while showcasing local scenery and cultures. However, the enormous popularity of these video channels has given rise to a new type of fake charity.
On some channels, scammers masquerading as live-streamers will "accidentally" come across some villagers, who will then invite them to their places for a home-cooked dinner. The shabbiness of their homes, the crudeness of their meals, and the moving hospitality of these villagers all combine to evoke a feeling of compassion in the viewers. Persuaded by their own kindness, they are likely to make irrational purchases. In these cases, the villagers are often professional actors; the wrecked houses are deliberately chosen; the storylines are scripted; and the products sold are not their farm products.
Produced to mislead consumers, these videos are undermining the willingness of the public to participate in programs supporting rural communities. To prevent the ultimate loss of faith in rural live-streamers, video platforms should put more effort into developing a screening mechanism that can separate the good from the bad.