China’s Version of Twitter Plans to Clean Up Platform by Showing Users’ Location

China’s Version of Twitter Plans to Clean Up Platform by Showing Users’ Location
Photo: PETER PARKS/AFP, Getty Images

Don’t get any ideas, Elon.

Weibo, China’s answer to Twitter, has announced a plan to publicise some users’ IP addresses as a way of combatting fraud and malicious behaviour on its platform. The feature has already gone into effect and cannot be turned off by affected users, Reuters reports.

The gargantuan social media network has over 530 million people using its platform on any given day, making it a good deal larger than Twitter which only sees a user base of approximately 229 million, according to recent numbers. However, like Twitter, Weibo has had a significant problem with disinformation and misinformation on its platform, including campaigns related to Covid-19 and the war in Ukraine. The company has tried less drastic measures in the past, such as disabling accounts tied to known influence networks.

The IP reveals will only be applied to Weibo users who are outside of China, Reuters reports. For users inside of China, the platform will reveal the region or province in which they live but keep their IP addresses hidden. This distinction makes a certain amount of sense when you consider the fact that a lot of disinfo campaigns tend to be seeded by people in foreign countries.

In a recent statement, the company said that the change was designed to “reduce bad behaviour such as impersonating parties involved in hot topic issues, malicious disinformation and traffic scraping, and to ensure the authenticity and transparency of the content disseminated.” The company also added: “Weibo has always been committed to maintaining a healthy and orderly atmosphere of discussion and protecting the rights and interests of users to quickly obtain real and effective information.”

It’s not a bad idea to enact meaningful guardrails to counteract disinformation and social media platforms definitely need to do more on that front. That said, publishing my IP address is one surefire way to get me to skip out on any social network. For that reason — and others — I recommend not using Weibo for the foreseeable future.

Not that things are much better in America, where a professional troll who hates content moderation is currently threatening to purchase Twitter for $US44 ($61) billion. I guess whether you’re in Asia or America, you’ll just have to pick your poison.