China’s Twitter equivalent of Weibo told users on Thursday that it would start publishing their IP locations on their account pages and when making comments in a bid to crack down on “bad behavior” online.
The move, posted on Weibo’s official account, garnered more than 200 million views and sparked widespread discussion, with some users uneasy about their reduced online anonymity.
“Every IP address seems to whisper in your ear: ‘You have to be careful,'” user Misty wrote.
Others, however, said they supported the measures in light of COVID-related misinformation.
User UltraScarry wrote: “Especially when the COVID situation is still severe, rapid IP disclosure can be effective in reducing the appearance of disgusting content for rumour-mongers and rumour-spreaders.”
Weibo, which has more than 570 million monthly active users, said users’ IP addresses would be displayed under the new setting, which took effect Thursday, and users could not turn it off.
For users in China, the platform will display the province or municipality in which they posted, it said. For users who use Weibo overseas, the country/region where the user’s IP address is located will be displayed.
The setting is designed to “reduce bad behaviors such as impersonation and participation in hot issues, malicious disinformation and traffic scraping, and to ensure the authenticity and transparency of disseminated content,” it said in a notice.
“Weibo has always been committed to maintaining a healthy and orderly discussion atmosphere, protecting users’ rights and interests, and obtaining real and effective information quickly,” the notice reads.
The effects of the new rules are already visible below the notification, as thousands of user comments come with an extra label indicating the state or city where the user’s IP address is located.
Last month, Weibo said it would start testing the settings with some users in response to misinformation related to the Ukraine-Russia war.
China strictly controls its cyberspace and has been stepping up its efforts to “clean up” the internet over the past year. Under current law, Chinese social media sites that fail to censor critical content face economic sanctions and suspensions.
Weibo, which has been fined several times over the past year by China’s cyberspace regulator, has regularly issued notices about its crackdown on online bad behavior, including posting the names of the fined accounts.
However, it has not publicly addressed instances of accounts being suspended or banned simply for expressing dissent, such as supporting Ukraine or criticizing Russia’s ongoing war.
© Thomson Reuters 2022