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China’s Weibo shows user locations to combat ‘bad behaviour’

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China’s Twitter-like microblogging platform, Weibo, on Thursday announced it would start to display users’ IP locations on their account pages and when they post comments, the latest effort by the government to tighten restrictions on the already heavily censored site.

The official reason given by Weibo was that the new rule combat “bad behaviour” online.

The notice was posted on Weibo’s official account on Thursday and had logged over 200 million views by evening.

“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,” the notice read.

It added that the new rule was also being implemented to counter the spread of rumours and impersonation.

The function cannot be disabled by the user, the Weibo statement added.

“The noose is getting tighter and tighter,” wrote a user by the name “fried tulips”.

The platform is said to have over 570 million users.

Two other popular apps, ByteDance’s news and information product Toutiao and short video sharing platform Douyin announced that they would begin to display users’ account IP location information earlier this month.

The new rule means that user comments will carry an extra label indicating the province or municipality of the user’s IP address.

Though widely used, Weibo is also heavily censored by the Chinese government.

Government censors routinely remove comments critical of the Communist Party of China and its top leadership.

During the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine, anti-Russian comments were wiped out from Weibo. Similarly, critical comments and stories on the Shanghai lockdown and residents’ hardships were censored.

The rule will likely also discourage Weibo users from making even a nuanced comment.

Despite censorship, the number of internet users in China hit more than 1.03 billion in December 2021, an increase of nearly 43 million from the end of 2020, official statistics said in February.

Internet penetration rate in the country reached 73%, according to the annual report on China’s internet development released by the China Internet Network Information Centre in February.

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