Weibo moves to battle fake interactions as government scrutiny persists

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Chinese microblogging service Weibo aims to discourage fake comments and reposts on its platform by limiting its count of the total number of interactions such as shares to 1 million.

The platform will show a maximum figure of “1 million+” when reposts and comments exceed that amount, the company wrote in a report. The social media platform said the effort aims to “build a virtuous ecosystem for content and connections,” and applies to all accounts except those owned by government bodies and media outlets. The system will come online at the end of January.

The move takes aim at the country’s “water army,” shuijun in Chinese, referring to paid posters who flood social media platforms with reposts, biased comments, rumors, and gossip. It also targets click farms, which feature thousands of smartphones that inflate interaction metrics.

Last year, Chinese singer Cai Xukun received more than 100 million shares for a single post, prompting China’s Communist Youth League (CYL), the youth wing of the country’s ruling party, to accuse the celebrity of purchasing fans. Beijing even issued a warning in late December prohibiting government bodies from “purchasing fans” for their social media accounts.

Weibo said it had been identifying and clamping down on this kind of behavior with police using upgraded algorithms and data analysis.

State-owned Xinhua News Agency also censured online platforms for using fake accounts to boost traffic for their advertisers. “A number of industries including online retail and the entertainment business are being negatively affected,” it said (in Chinese).

Following a series of nationwide “clean-up” campaigns, the microblogging platform is working to combat fake news and data fraud alongside numerous other online service providers. It announced that it had processed more than 6,000 pieces of fake information in September. Still, China’s cyber watchdog censured over 10 social networking and online media websites including WeChat and Weibo in November for disseminating vulgar content and spreading rumors.