For these hours, Weibo, the most popular social network in China, has implemented a measure that is already causing great controversy. From this Thursday, the platform publicly shares each user’s location and IP address in their posts as well as on your profile. The supposed purpose of this determination is to “reduce bad behavior” of its users on the Internet.
The decision was reported via the official Weibo profile. According to the platform, the new settings are aimed at preventing accounts that “impersonate parties involved in hot topics” or spread “malicious misinformation”. [sic].
Weibo is widely regarded as “Chinese Twitter” and currently has about 570 million active users. And the people behind each account can’t do anything to prevent this sensitive data from being shared publicly, as it’s not an option that can be manually turned on or off from the service settings.
As explained Reutersevery new post posted on Weibo now displays the IP address next to a label with the province or municipality it originated from. And in case a post is made from outside of China, the country of origin will be identified with its respective IP address.
“Weibo has always been committed to maintaining a healthy and orderly chat environment and protecting the rights and interests of users to quickly obtain real and effective information,” they explained to the service.
As expected, the reactions around the new measure adopted by Weibo were mostly negative. And if there have been any comments from users who feel this is a positive move to combat the spread of rumors and fake news on sensitive topics, those are the least of them.
Weibo and a controversial measure that widens the shadow of Chinese censorship
After all, Chinese netizens have many reasons to be mostly pessimistic. The censorship exerted on the Asian giant is known throughout the world and has pushed many Western companies to leave the country. The cases of LinkedIn and Yahoo! were among the most recent in this sense.
It is not the first time that Weibo has taken center stage for the enforcement of measures restricting freedom of expression. A decade ago, the platform made news after publishing a list of topics that should be censored among its posts; They ranged from revealing national secrets to inciting protests and demonstrations, to promoting “bad superstitions”, among others.
It’s unclear if the social network’s most recent decision was influenced by the Chinese government, although it’s not unusual for it to be so. In the end, it has all the hallmarks of being an intimidating measure more than anything.
Knowing how the authorities of this country control the activity of users on the Internet, it is logical to think that Weibo already had the capacity to record the IP address and location – whether precise or approximate – of each user, only that she had not made any public. Now the disclosure of this data seems to be a clear warning to the public that their steps are closely followed.
And while this is happening in China, in the West, the discussion of what freedom of speech is is increasingly twisted around convenience. Let’s just hope that no platform on this side of the world comes up with such a disastrous idea as Weibo.
I am Bhumi Shah, a highly skilled digital marketer with over 11 years of experience in digital marketing and content writing in the tech industry.