WeChat and Weibo to reveal user locations for public posts

social media china wechat and weibo gaming
REUTERS/Petar Kujundzic/Files

BEIJING (Reuters) -China’s most popular messaging service WeChat said on Friday it will start revealing the location of users when they post on a public account, just one day after only a day after Weibo, another popular Chinese social media platform, launched the same feature.

Tencent-owned WeChat said that it would soon begin testing the setting, which applies only to users of its “public platform”, where they may comment on news, essays and other written content published by official accounts.

The new settings will display the province or municipality of users in China posting on public accounts. Posts made by overseas users on public accounts will display the country denoted by their IP address.

WeChat, which has more than 1.2 billion monthly users, said in a notice that the move targeted misinformation relating to “domestic and overseas hot-topic issues”, without elaborating.

In addition to its private messaging service, WeChat also allows users such as companies and bloggers to create official accounts where they can publish articles accessible to public.

Its location function will apply to these public posts.

For example, as of Friday, comments left by users on some of these posts showed which province they were posted from.

WeChat’s notice came only a day after Weibo introduced the same settings permanently after more than a month of testing.

Weibo said in a notice that the settings are 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 move, posted on Weibo’s official account, garnered over 200 million views and was widely discussed, with some users rattled by the perceived reduction in their online anonymity.

“Every IP address seems to be whispering in your ear: ‘You be careful,'” wrote user Misty.

Others, however, said they were supportive of the measures, in light of COVID-related misinformation.

Douyin, a ByteDance subsidiary and the Chinese equivalent of TikTok, said in a statement on Friday that it had also added a similar setting to user accounts.

It was not clear what triggered the moves by Douyin, WeChat and Weibo, but social media platforms have been instructed by Chinese regulators to increase policing of what is posted on their sites as Beijing further tightens controls over its cyberspace.

(Reporting by Eduardo Baptista; Editing by David Goodman and Alexander Smith)

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