Koshiro – stock.adobe.com
Sina Weibo, the largest Twitter-like microblogging platform in China, announced on Thursday 28 April that it has added compulsory location-based services to the mobile app. In the new update, users’ IP addresses and location data will be revealed when they post content in the app.
Why it matters
The upgraded function of Sina Weibo primarily allows users to search for users around just with a click into the Nearby Tweets and Nearby People functions. However, it has been pointed out that even though some users have not geo-tagged their posts or left an exact location in their profile, their rather-precise location can still be seen by other users within a few hundred meters. Sina Weibo has clarified that the location-based functionality cannot be turned off by the app users.
Sina Weibo’s new function has triggered fierce discussions online, especially on privacy and speech control issues. While IP addresses can reveal the users’ exact locations, they are usually regarded as personal data that should not be made accessible without the user’s consent. Meanwhile, although Sina Weibo indicates the location-based function will help control the spread of fake news and misinformation, many users in China have expressed their concerns over the effects this function will have on various kinds of speech online.
Launched by Sina Corporation in 2009, Sina Weibo is one of the biggest social media platforms in China, with over 530 million monthly active users as of 2021. Around 94% of its active users are using the mobile app.