Why Is Weibo Exposing Its Users?

The Chinese social media platform, Weibo incivility, was attempting to address the issue of displaying estimated user location.

The Chinese social media platform, Weibo incivility, was attempting to address the issue of displaying estimated user location, yet user were still able to troll and target others.

In April of 2022, Weibo incivility which is the Chinese equivalent to X, had a policy change. It all began when Tian Yang and his colleagues and the Chinese University of Hong Kong, created a listed of 96 offensive words in Chinese. To measure changes, they tracked how often uncivil words appeared. They tracked them using 66 media profiles that used such words. The tracking occurred 12.5 days before the policy change and 12.5 days following the change.  

This followed with the display of users’ location in public. This issue led to  users being targeted based on their internet protocol (IP) address, designed to minimize incivility. After the policy change took place the abuse or uncivil words based on deriving users’ location increased by 33.5%.

Analysis of the Situation

According to Yang, a lesson was learned, adding, “We cannot assume that technology will function in a way that you assume.”

Yang gave a clear and rigid explanation of the analysis based of the uncivil conversations that take place on Weibo. He addressed the display of the IP locations, saying they could have given them a chance to give positive outcomes.

On the other hand, Liam McLoughlin at the University of Liverpool, UK stated that “for years social media platforms have attempted to introduce a range of measures which remove, or at least reduce levels of negative content on their platforms.”

McLoughlin continues to add that approaches should be taken towards such actions and statements. At the same time, he states that according to his research platforms such as Facebook groups for neighborhoods, do in fact increase the use of uncivil words.

Social media is deemed by the public as a safe space to conversate with people as you usually  do on a daily basis. The only issue here is that this form of conversation could very well turn into online abuse. This is where the lines need to be drawn and policies should be applied.

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