Weibo’s raffle algorithm under scrutiny for bias against men and Android users

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Social media platform Weibo has come under fire for issues with its raffle algorithm after only 1 male (out of 113 winners) was chosen.

A few weeks ago, Chinese e-sports club Invictus Gaming (iG) claimed Chinese mainland’s first world championship in League of Legends (LOL). To celebrate the event, Wang Sicong, investor and former player, held a raffle for Weibo users who reposted the news.

The outspoken son of multinational Wanda Group’s Wang Jianlin pledged to give RMB 10,000 (around $1,438) apiece to a total of 113 winners to commemorate November 3 (11/3), the date that iG won the championship.

The raffle soon went viral not only among the country’s e-sports fans but among the more general users looking to get a piece of the action. The new has been re-posted over 22.74 million times as of November 13.

But the story took a different turn when the lottery winners were announced on November 11. Out of the 113 winners, only one winner is identified as male. What’s more, a predominating 78% of the winners were iPhone users. Netizens demanded an explanation, especially since the iPhone holds less than 10% of smartphone market in China.

Weibo CEO Wang Gaofei responded through his personal Weibo saying that, “the top principle for our raffle algorithm is to avoid giving the prize to Weibo accounts run by bots. Any user account that features activity of water army [水军, a group of internet ghostwriters paid to post online comments with particular content] would get a lesser chance to win the raffle.”

Water army accounts would typically only re-post news and are less active in generating original content or posting photos. Male users are at a disadvantage since they are not as active as female users in terms of content creation on Weibo, the logic goes.