Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter, told users on Thursday that it would start posting their IP locations on their account pages and when they post comments, in a bid to combat “bad behavior” online.
The move, posted on the official Weibo account, garnered more than 200 million views and was widely discussed, with some users taken aback by the perceived reduction in their online anonymity.
“Every IP address seems to whisper in your ear: ‘Be careful,’” user Misty wrote.
Others, however, said they supported the measures, in light of misinformation related to COVID.
“Especially at a time when the COVID situation remains dire, quickly revealed IPs can effectively reduce the appearance of unpleasant content from rumor mills and rumor spreaders,” user UltraScarry wrote.
Weibo (WB), which has more than 570 million monthly active users, said that users’ IP addresses would be displayed in the new settings that took effect on Thursday and that users cannot disable.
For users in China, the platform will show the province or municipality they are posting from, he said. For those who use Weibo abroad, the country of users’ IP addresses will be displayed.
The settings are designed to “reduce bad behavior, such as impersonating parties involved in hot topics, malicious disinformation and traffic scraping, and to ensure the authenticity and transparency of the content spread,” it said in a notice.
“Weibo has always been committed to maintaining a healthy and orderly discussion environment and protecting the rights and interests of users to quickly obtain factual and effective information,” the notice read.
The effects of the new rules were already visible below the notice, as thousands of user comments carried an additional label indicating the province or municipality of the user’s IP address.
Last month, Weibo said it would begin testing these settings on some users in response to misinformation related to the Ukraine-Russia war.
China tightly controls its cyberspace and in the past year has stepped up efforts to “clean up” the Internet. Chinese social networking sites that fail to censor critical content face financial penalties as well as temporary service suspensions under current law.
Weibo, which has received several fines from China’s cyberspace regulator over the past year, frequently posts notices about its efforts to crack down on online misbehavior, including publishing the names of sanctioned accounts.
However, it has not publicly addressed cases of accounts being suspended or banned simply for expressing dissenting views, such as supporting Ukraine or criticizing Russia for the ongoing war.