ParkLU, a digital advertising platform that connects China’s internet celebrities (wǎnghóng 网红) and brands, recently released a list of rules that are currently being enforced on Weibo.

Based on insider sources, KOL surveys, and their own testing, the rules show the lengths both Sina and Alibaba are willing to go to protect their influencer/e-commerce ecosystem.

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KOLs and other content creators are becoming increasingly important to online commerce with many influencers working directly with agencies to monetize their content. Indeed, learning from their previous experience with Weibo influencers, Sina has been very careful in controlling their live streaming ecosystem.

We spoke briefly with Elijah Whaley, CMO of ParkLU, about these rules and what they mean for e-commerce and content creators.

What do you make of these rules?

Obviously, some of the rules are to combat other social and e-commerce platforms. While others are believed to be a strategy to gain more ad revenues such as the rule stating only one brand can appear in a single post. I think some rules are needed, especially the plagiarizing and reposting rules that are needed to block zombie accounts.

Others just seem strange, like posts with long images will be penalized. I’m not totally sure what the thinking is there except maybe their image scanning technology can’t catch a QR code at the bottom of an oversized image. Not clear why this would be a rule, especially because long form images are quite popular in tutorial and comic posts.

How will this affect the ecosystem?

First off, everything will need to stay under the Alibaba/Sina/Youku umbrella if it’s to avoid penalties, but that’s not that surprising really; WeChat has blocked Taobao and T-mall for a long time. It’s just tit-for-tat.

Honestly, I think this type of behavior from Weibo weakens their value proposition to users right when Weibo was getting pretty good. No other social platform in China provides creators with the same level of content flexibility. The sad thing is it’s the users who lose out when internet, tech, and commerce monopolies duke it out in China.

There’s this constant tightening and loosening taking place, so who knows how long is will last. A while ago Weibo posts couldn’t be natively shared to WeChat, but now they can. I’m confident that ways of hacking the rules will be discovered.

It might hurt some small internet/tech/e-commerce players and definitely consolidates the power of the big players that much more.