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Media & Entertainment

Virtual hosts take China livestream spotlight amid crackdown

Influencers’ tax troubles open door for automated substitutes

Startup Deep Science last year raised 100 million yuan as it pivoted into virtual livestreaming. (Image courtesy Deep Science)

HONG KONG -- It is well past midnight, but sales are still in full swing on a Chinese e-commerce platform as a virtual host peddles cosmetics and skin care products at rock-bottom prices.

Groggy viewers ask about a bottle of scented body lotion on offer for 69 yuan ($11). But they don't have much luck getting answers; the auburn-haired avatar's sales pitch just repeats itself on a preprogrammed loop.

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