Tencent reacts to Chinese state media calling online games ‘spiritual opium’ by adding new restrictions

    
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Young online game fans in China are going to be facing some new restrictions from Tencent-operated games. That’s in response to an article from the Chinese newspaper Economic Information Daily (EID), an affiliate of the country’s state-run Xinhua news agency, which called the company’s mobile MOBA Honor of Kings “spiritual opium.”

“‘Spiritual opium’ has grown into an industry worth hundreds of billions. […] No industry, no sport, can be allowed to develop in a way that will destroy a generation,” read part of the article.

The article actually caused Tencent’s shares to tumble to the point the company lost $60B in market value. Hours after the EID article was printed, the company announced that it would be introducing new limitations for children under 12 years old, including a prohibition against spending money in the game, and time restrictions from 1.5 hours to 1 hour on non-holidays and from 3 hours to 2 hours on holidays, starting with Honor of Kings.

For context, the subject of opium and its addictive properties is a sensitive subject for China, considering the substance’s history in the country, which escalated to the point that two wars were fought over the drug. Additionally, EID reposted the article with a significantly less aggressive tone, calling for authorities, game developers, and families to work together to combat addiction to online games in young children.

source: Reuters via Gamasutra
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Bryan Correll

Additionally, EID reposted the article with a significantly less aggressive tone

Bah. The article was originally published in the same state it is now. Anyone saying otherwise insults China, its government, its people, and the spirits of their ancestors. China will not tolerate such insults!

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Jetra_Virsai

I mean, good on them for not creating more Ninjas or Tyler1s, but then again evil government is evil.

There’s a lot of mixed feelings here.

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Utakata

The Chinese Government is the opium of the masses. Or least they like to keep it that way…

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Jack Pipsam

Games can be escapism, if they’re playing a lot of the games then they’re doing a lot of escaping, from their parents, school or let’s be honest, China in general. Let’s see how well those kids do once you take a coping mechanism away suddenly, I’m sure it’ll end swimmingly.
Apart from the general horrors of government intervention in such things, this could very well be state-sponsored-mental abuse.

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Arktouros

I don’t really disagree with their conclusions. Games are 100% designed to be addictive full of mechanics trying to get you to log in, come back and keep going. From RNG crutches keeping you throwing those dice till you get what you want to time gated mechanics that emphasize fear of missing out games are designed to keep you coming back day after day after day.

That said…I really wouldn’t my government interfering in all that. Lemme just keep inhaling that Copium and gaming my life away. Certainly better than that shit show going on outside.

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Rndomuser

LOL. The usual “blame it on game developers” reaction, with usual response of game developers implementing useless restrictions which only punish responsible players. People keep failing to comprehend that the ONLY help that is effective for people with money spending addiction or gaming addictions is help provided by friends, relatives as well as addiction treatment specialists. Just because one game will limit gameplay time or will limit spending opportunities – a person with addiction issues will find another game, online or offline (local street gambling), or will find another self-destructive activity instead of gaming, and that person will continue doing it until someone will actively help that person to overcome such behavior where this person will not need any artificial limitations anymore.

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Bruno Brito

Don’t get me wrong, we’re not defending China here. It’s absolute just a form of the scare. You’re completely correct. Addiction requires effort and help. It’s a psychological issue that requires a lot of caring.

And both sides, western culture and eastern culture, make use of blunt-punching simplistic solutions to use gaming as scapegoats for way more complex issues.

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Darkedone02

I like the civil discussion of this entire comment section of this article, it’s very informative to see other people’s perspective on this issue.

Video games are not quite the issue, expectually when they can be made to “explain a particular issue”, like pollution, we have eco. For creative engagement, we got minecraft with mods. For understanding city management, we got cities: skyline, there is a bunch of game made by and for creative means to help make you think.

However not many people from the outside perspective think of this, we are precieved from being lazy, addicted, or other negative outlooks. This is possibly why china is acting this because they want their kids to have an VERY productive outlook on their lives, and sitting around “not doing nothing” is considered draconian in their eyes. That set the tone that all this time, they never really did full research into the games that people play. Just imagine that someone actually playing a game like factorio, that deals with mainly production of resources, while defending yourself against a hostile planet of it’s life forms, while managing pollution, energy problems, ores shortages, and other actual issues. While your in a deep moment, they want to rip you out of it, while screaming that your not becoming productive with your life, when your trying to understand various issues.

China obviously put in too much stress on these kids life, and won’t let them enjoy… I also wonder how many people in china committed suicide due to this unimaginable amounts of pressure, stress, and lack of an output to do de-stress. from what I imagine from the kids perspective, it’s like having 1000 parents telling you what to do, with an endless amount of choirs for you to do, and they should of been done two days ago, yelling and screaming at you to get it done ASAP, and you really don’t have time to finish it on their schedule. that’s what I’m getting off of this.

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Bruno Brito

I can’t speak for China. I can speak for Japan a bit:

https://www.statista.com/statistics/622249/japan-suicide-number-per-100-000-inhabitants/

Japan has some of the worst suicide rates in the world. Pressuring your kids and youth is a sure-fire way of making them lose absolute hope in their system. Specially considering how harsh Japan is with rehabilitating them. People are refered as trash, teachers look down on individualists, delinquents rarely get to reform.

My ex was a huge Japan enthusiast and she always told me that the Japan always had this mythos around it that it’s pretty bullshit: The whole story about the emperor curving to teachers, or the fact that Japanese healthcare is pretty shitty when compared to Brazilian’s public healthcare.

There is a huge chance that China also has high suicidal rates, but, and i can’t believe i’m going to say this: They’re probably lower than Japan or Korea. Countries in development tend to have lower suicide rates. I think it’s something about having dreams, ambitions and little in the way of power gives you force to keep struggling. Brazilians are known for being sturdy, hard-headed and full of effort and warmness. I never liked that fame.

Adversity breeds willpower, i guess?

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Bryan Correll

Countries in development tend to have lower suicide rates. I think it’s something about having dreams, ambitions and little in the way of power gives you force to keep struggling.

Working yourself to exhaustion every day doesn’t give you much time or energy for the sort of self reflection that can lead to suicidal ideation.

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Bruno Brito

Indeed.

On that note, Brazil has a pretty reasonable suicide rate. The more i think about it, the more i’m led to believe we just like to suffer.

Ernost
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Ernost

The more i think about it, the more i’m led to believe we just like to suffer.

You reminded me of a scene from The Matrix where the Architect says pretty much the same thing regarding humanity.

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Tee Parsley

During the first Iraq War, I saw an interview with an American fighter squadron commander where he extolled on the skills of his fighter pilots. He said he felt it stemmed from all the gaming the pilots had done as kids, and how their visual acuity and eye hand coordination was superior to that of the equivalent pilots of his generation.

Stefan
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Stefan

Tencent has responded that they will be compliant and are willing to go to rather extreme lengths, from a Kotaku article based on a Bloomberg Article:

In the wake of the now-deleted “spiritual opium” article, Tencent promised to institute further restrictions on playtime for underage players, including limiting playtime to one hour a day during the week and two hours a day during holidays and banning under-12 players from making in-game purchases.

“And more dramatically,” Bloomberg added, “the company broached the possibility of the industry banning games altogether for those under the age of 12, without elaborating.

I do not see that happening but damn…

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bobfish

I wouldn’t be surprised if it happened. In many countries there are ratings systems to restrict under 13s from accessing harmful media. Going to the extent that all media is harmful to under 12s isn’t a huge leap.

Hell, I imagine there is some entrepreneur in China right now that has seen Tencent’s response and is preparing to lobby the government to make all games illegal for under 12s, whilst at the same time spinning up an Educational Game company to supply experiences to under 12s and create a monopoly of children’s games, sanctioned by the government.

Stefan
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Stefan

It may, but it is also a matter of how realistic is it considering we are speaking of mobile games.

China just had a crack down on everything educational online for minors, so i do not see that happening as there are a host of reasons it got shut down and this spans back to 2018. They literally turned companies into none-profits recently, China takes their ban hammer quite serious.

Once the social issues surrounding it might get resolved and it can be provided as supplementary to regular schooling and teacher are kept out of the programs, you can bet your ass that Tencent will be the first to deliver on this.

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McGuffn

bye bye religion! we have a new, improved, opiate of the masses now! I mean, they are loons but in their defense we do have subscription and battle pass tithing and you better pray before you open a lockbox.

Fisty
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Fisty

These kids don’t want to slave away anymore and just want to play video games! How dare they!

Harry Koala
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Harry Koala

China has a large wealth distribution disparity. The coastal areas containing most of the big cities are pretty well off, and the professional and university educated middle classes there are comparable to western middle classes for affluence. These are the people that this initiative is aimed at: the ones with plenty of disposable income, luxury goods and free time.

Much of the interior however is much poorer and that is where most of the poverty is, and where your going to find phenomena such as children working from a relatively young age. They’re not spending hours per day on online games.

Fisty
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Fisty

When I say slave away, I mean anyone, regardless of income, who chooses to go bust ass for someone other than themselves. Wasn’t really knocking China. You don’t think they’re pissed that their kids aren’t out there hustling, instead playing video games? All my friends parents got pissed when they’re 16 or 17 playing video games and not working, school full time and getting ready for the future. My parents gave up. The idea you’re supposed to be contributing and making the system run, not having fun and enjoying life. Cause that’s what I meant. Wasn’t trying to say this is due to young slave labor in China, though it does seem that way.

Stefan
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Stefan

Different culture, different future though.

Your grades matter a lot in China, the end result determines what university you get into and that determines your future and also what care you can provide in the future, care even that will extend to your parents.

Parents often invest most of their wages into their kids, this puts kids from young age in a very stressful situation, they even have some sort of place they can send their kid away to for reeducation of sort if they do not perform well in school.

I do not know kids get forced into slave labor though, this also does not appear to be a thing unique to China, i believe this sort of pressure on kids is also found in other Asian nations like South Korea. The education system that is.

I do find that this sort of education stamps out creativity at a young age, than again China also is rewriting their own culture and thus art background since the cultural revolution.

Fisty
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Fisty

So their culture provides even more reasons to be as or more disillusioned with the process as everyone else? Culture or not, the writing is on the wall. Just sounds like a bunch of 80’s parents upset at the rise of Nintendo.

Stefan
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Stefan

And their perspective on our youth is that we do not care about them enough to invest in them. All a matter of perspective.

I also do not find that an apt comparison, you have to keep in mind a lot of games are mobile and a lot of mobile games have Gacha mechanics such as lootboxes which are in essence gambling, that is not the same as playing too much Mario in the 80s

Fisty
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Fisty

I am not even sure what you’re trying to educate me on at this point.

The parallel is parents hate that games take away time that could be spent doing what you should be doing, teach innappropriate things you shouldn’t know yet or spend tons of money on games and game stuff. It is very reminiscent of other parent panics. aka, Do what I want! I’m losing control!

I am trying to figure out if you agree with the take and kids should be limited hours.

Stefan
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Stefan

In all honesty i do agree with limiting game time, do i believe the state should have a heavy hand in this? No, that is where i disagree. I believe in everything in moderation

What i am trying to say here is that it is not in my opinion comparable, the 80s games to the mobile games for one and us gaming in our time and kids in China gaming now.

I also do not know what age group they are actually referring here to but 16 to 17 is rather old to get introduced to games to, in this day and age. Even back when i was younger i believe i first gamed on a Commodre64 by the age of 5 or 6 and i am now speaking of the earlier 90s.

That is because we also had ample of opportunity to get ahead in life after we did horrible on school, that is not the case so much in China and while i do not claim to be an expert, the grades you get the end that determines what university you get into determines your the rest of your professional life or that is the perception at least created by communities and parents.

The cultural difference is also there that we in the west do not have this mentality where we believe we need to take care of out parents at older age, we have facilities for that.

In China i believe it is considered normal that you do take care of your parents, so there is also that difference that i was trying to highlight, your kid failing in school could also mean a harder retirement life for you later on, hence parents investing a lot of their money and time into their kid, if i am not mistaken some go as far as moving around the country to ensure their kid gets the best education possible.

I hope that clears things up a bit of what points i was trying to get across and how it is different from you and i growing up and wasting our time on games and also how there is more at stake for their parents now than our parents then.

Fisty
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Fisty

Of course you agree in limiting time. Of course it shouldn’t be the state. – I was referring to teens as part of the workforce, not when they start gaming. – My school was one of the most impoverished and worst school systems in the nation. So, if we’re talking about middle class people, they may have a better chance than I did in the 80’s. Also, my mother succeeded because school was her only way out of poverty, then took care of my grandmother, now I live and help take care of her. Culturally, we’re different, but we’re still a lot more similar. I think the issue has more to do with controlling the masses in their absolutely huge country, while navigating a economy that has to keep people in line while still trying to bring everyone else up to date. To your point, they do have the forsight to ensure a strong way of life for their citizens, as they’ve brought hundreds of millions of people out of poverty in the last few decades.

The comparison of scared parents and kids being kids stands for me.

Stefan
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Stefan

Fair enough and yes there is a scare factor involved as games and gaming have become quite the scapegoat regardless of what culture.

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Harbinger_Kyleran

I dunno, I sure put a lot of tokens and quarters into video games back in the arcade days, except they payouts were far less than slot machines. ;)

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Harbinger_Kyleran

Not seeing how your scenario varies by much here in the States, all pretty much the same.

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Bruno Brito

It’s complicated. Asian countries have a way more stern way of looking at children’s upbringing because of how these children will become the next cogs in society. It’s not just China, Japan and Korea have the same issue.

Japanese culture makes women want to become office ladies until the ages of 30+ were they then wish to be married to build families with office workers. The reason why Japan has issues with letting go from that culture is because making women go through office jobs makes them more prone to educating their children to enter those jobs. The country functions like that. Reality is that capitalism has severe issues that affected those countries in severe ways and they had to adapt. Korea has a similar problem.

And i’m not saying this is good. I’m saying it’s complicated, because on their point of view, we are the ones being neglectful with our own children. And to an extent, they’re right. It’s inherently harder as the years go by, to disconnect kids from the internet. And anyone who has a social media network knows how they monetize EVERYTHING.

It’s literally a “lesser of two evils” situation. We can’t vouch for western culture, because western culture was what shoved opium into China to begin with. Western culture was what shoved Korea with terrible beauty standards and an extremely toxic work culture, specially in entertainment and the music industry. China is extremely touchy about anything that is able to become mass-addiction.

Also, while credit scores is a thing ot be concerned with in China, they’re not something that exists only there: You can consider credit scores anything that shows you how your upbringing and your competence at following society’s rules will affect your future. In western societies, that means: Don’t be anything but white, and don’t be poor. It’s as bad as chinese credit scores if you ask me.

And as Stefan put it, there’s also the family issue. Western civilization is way more individualist because of late stage capitalism. China and Japan actively combat the influences of capitalism by trying to keep their entire civilization tight-knit. Japan less so, but China only lets inside what they think it’ll be a boon for them. And considering that of all the oldest, richest civilizations around the world, like India, Egypt, Mesopotamia and China, they’re the only ones in a position of absolute power towards the newer powers that be, it’s hard to argue with results ( specially hard when you consider that the western world is in decadence while China is ascending ).

It’s complicated.

Fisty
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Fisty

Fuck man, I know its different. Everything is different everywhere. The world is nuance. I don’t need reasons for why they’re doing it. Each person in government has their own reasons. Everything’s complicated.

Can’t we agree this kind of scrutiny sucks when you’re a kid trying to be a kid? That was my sentiment. (I also hate most capitalism/greed). Hah, I just got roped into this long thread cause it seemed like I was calling out a culture or something.

Stefan
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Stefan

Fully agree with the notion that it has a negative impact on Childhood and also creativity, kids should be allowed to be kids, considering we are all growing older and older and might get live to a 100 if that is the case we have over 60 years to be productive members of society.

Also my apologies if that was the impression i gave, as i never intended to bait you to comment on a culture, i also never got that impression from you for the record.

I went a bit overboard on the text as it is a subject i have been reading up on a lot lately. So that is fully on me!

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Bruno Brito

Fisty, i was the child of a man who was only loving when he was drunk. He beaten me mercilessly and he actively got in the way of me learning how to draw because it wasn’t “regional enough”.

Yes, i agree with you. I’m not saying i don’t. The problem steems from me then coming from a position of superiority that i don’t have. The moment i got free of him, i ended up indulging in too much shit because of my education fucking me up, and it’s not entirely their fault. I’m 31. I was 18. I had 13 years to try to get better, and i didn’t.

We got your point. We all agree with it. The problem is the platitudes that keep always coming back to this debate of “oh we need education and make people responsible for it pay!”

Sure. HOW? Can we get practical? Because that’s the problem: China’s practicality led to one extreme. The Western Civilization went to the other extreme. We never found balance.

Stefan
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Stefan

Good points and indeed it is rather complicated it always is when you are from an outsider looking in you often miss a lot of the context or the big picture so to speak.

It is also important at least in my opinion to not look at nations with too many generalizations or define a nation simply as bad or good, it is often a mixture of both.

I am looking to read ”China’s New Normal” By Coppens to get a better understanding of it all, China and their industries.

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Bruno Brito

People really need to read Marx. Not because they need to be socialists ( hell, Marx stipulation of socialism is pretty mundane and weak, and as utopic as the ones he criticized. ), but because they really should see Marx’s analysis of late-stage capitalism, which is unparalled.

Mega-corporations and merges, they hate the free market ( most big companies don’t really compete anymore ), they make use of liberal propaganda but they don’t really want minimal state, what they want is a state that looks the other way for them. I consider liberals and ancaps as much dreamers and idiots as i consider full-blown socialists.

Can’t say i’m not a idiot either, i’m a center-left. Believing in a socialistic-capitalism makes me a complete imbecile.

Stefan
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Stefan

In all honesty while China is heavy handed they do actually act on their policies.
The US generally shrugs if a Corporation does something against the well being of its citizens.
The EU generally gives them a strong worded warning and fines them.
China, well China just pulls the plug on them and demands them to reform.

They are also not seeking to destroy the companies they go after but to bring them in line and make them so they are good for the community and nation as a whole, you have to understand this is very much in line with the communist thinking. Hate it, love it or everything in between it is an government that actually acts. Not condoning the actions here merely explaining them, as i am not particularly a fan of autocratic regimes but i do understand where it comes from.

They also recently tackled the online education industry because teachers were no longer giving classes but focusing more on their online work actually hurting the prospects of kids. This like the online education system was a long time coming the former was warned as early as 2018, so people who saw their stocks drop weren’t really on the ball. Tencent will recover however.

Also if this shows to be going mostly after mobile Gacha games, i am all for it. Same as i did not find their system of making it harder to gave after 10 pm all that bad.

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Phubarrh

The US generally shrugs if a Corporation does something against the well being of its citizens.

True…our masses actually got opiates, and the businessmen who made billions selling them got a slap on the wrist.

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Peregrine Falcon

Well, that’s certainly one way to look at it. Here’s another:

These children become adults who spend more time working for video game accolades, instead of real life accolades, then they complain that they’re poor because they’ve spent their lives playing video games instead of trying to get more education, more job skills and/or a better job.

Not to mention what sitting around playing video games all day does to your health.

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Bruno Brito

And then your solution is to force them into it.

Great idea.

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Peregrine Falcon

See THIS is why I usually never respond to you, Bruno. At no point did I say that I agree with the solution, and this obviously is not MY solution. But feel free to strawman away!

Also, if you think about it objectively for a moment, you’ll realize that nothing I said in my post was incorrect.

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Bruno Brito

See THIS is why I usually never respond to you, Bruno.

Next time, keep your promise. You’re ruining my fun here, bird.

At no point did I say that I agree with the solution, and this obviously is not MY solution.

So…why bring it up? Your entire premise is that going through the misery of trying to move up the world is better than the escapism that the same world forces you into.

But feel free to strawman away!

Again, man: You brought it up. I’m holding you to it.

Also, if you think about it objectively for a moment, you’ll realize that nothing I said in my post was incorrect.

I did, and you’re incorrect. Better education, better jobs, better lives, are not just a by-product of either action or inaction, but also defined by several other factors: The place you live, the culture of the place, your upbringing, the color of your skin, your biological sex, your networking skills, your inherent talents at being charismatic, your monetary power and by extension: the monetary power of your lineage and parents. Your tendency at being depressed and other psychological tendencies. Addiction. Bullying.

Success is not just a matter of effort, nor it ever was. The world isn’t fair, and reducing all of what can pull people down or push people forward to pure personal effort is not only extremely ableist, but also extremely-narrow-sighted.

NOW. If you’re saying that this is a PoV that the chinese government is using ( like the RPG scare we had in the US and Brazil ) to justify their shallow policies at childrens-education, like bad parents do ( as Fisty pointed out before ), and you actually believe what i said about success being a multiple factored result, then i’ll stand corrected and we’ll agree on something for once.

Fisty
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Fisty

Ok, Boomer.

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Bruno Brito

That’s bait, my friend.