Bytedance blocked 550 million fake likes and follows on Douyin and banned more than 2 million accounts associated with these misbehaviors in a three-month cleanup campaign in 2019, the company said in an announcement Thursday.

Why it matters: Fake likes and follows have plagued China’s content platforms for years. They’re bought by would-be influencers to simulate a large following, allowing them to charge inflated prices for ads and to trick recommendation algorithms into thinking they have popular content. As the most popular short video app in the country, Douyin is no exception.

  • Little Red Book, a platform where users share product reviews, said it banned a total of 21.3 million accounts for posting fake reviews in 2019.

Details: Named “Woodpecker 2019,” the campaign ran from October to December and targeted the malicious batch registering of accounts, fake likes and follows, and fake influencers on Douyin.

  • Bytedance Security Center blocked close to 92 million “malicious” requests to register accounts during the three-month period.
  • The center also suspended 293 Douyin accounts with more than 1 million followers and 4,638 accounts with over 100,000 followers for cheating.
  • One of the banned influencers, “Miss Mei from Tianmu Mountain,” had 3 million followers, reports TechWeb.
  • Also banned were 17,089 accounts that use fake likes and follows to attract customers to stores. The company reported 113 websites associated with these illicit activities to authorities.
  • Bytedance said it would routinize such cleanup campaigns to guard against the fake like industry.

Context: Short video platforms such as Douyin and Kuaishou have been conducting stricter self-regulation under threat of costly suspensions from regulators, who have been scrutinizing all kinds of content platforms for inappropriate content and market-disrupting activity.

  • In September, Kuaishou banned 39 popular content creators for posting clickbait videos and “malicious hype” videos, such as fabricated sob stories and content that exaggerates the circumstances of disadvantaged groups.
  • Both platforms launched a “youth mode” in March last year, which can limit underage users to feeds consisting of educational and informational videos. Neither platform has made the mode mandatory.

Tony Xu is Shanghai-based tech reporter. Connect with him via e-mail:

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