User location information released by leading Chinese social media companies has revealed that posts by some of the country’s most prominent hardline online nationalists have come from abroad.
The location data comes from the accounts of a handful patriotic “influencers” have sparked anger from compatriots who have endured lockdowns and other restrictions under Beijing’s strict zero-Covid policy.
Many social media users expressed outrage when data showed that nationalist blogger Zhong Xiaoyong, who has said Chinese who are not patriotic enough should emigrate, was in Japan.
China’s cyberspace regulator in October proposed obliging social media platforms to make users’ locations public. Microblogging site Weibo began showing locations based on users’ Internet Protocol addresses in March for anyone posting content related to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and expanded the rule to all users in late April.
Other social media sites have taken a similar approach, with Tencent’s messaging service WeChat showing locations when users post to its public in-app accounts.
After WeChat location data showed Zhong posting from Japan, the former journalist wrote on Thursday that he and his family are in the country for medical reasons. But WeChat users posted screenshots that appeared to point to Zhong, also known by his alias Lian Yue, and suggested another user had been to Japan as a tourist.
News of his whereabouts sparked widespread criticism, with one person commenting online: “[He] loves [his] country for work and leave the country for the lifestyle.”
Zhong, who said in 2017 that Chinese people who didn’t think their country’s growing power was a good thing to leave, defended his trips and said he would eventually return. “The first half of my life was rather quiet, so after entering the second half of my life I wanted to move,” he wrote.
Netizens also targeted Wu Jing, actor and director of patriotic blockbuster wolf warrior, after location data appeared to show he signed on from Thailand. Wu is known for emphasizing his nationalist credentials in interviews and once shared photos of his family’s Chinese passports online after they were accused of having foreign residency.
Zhong and Wu did not respond to requests for comment.
Analysts pointed out that IP address data does not prove where a user is located, as location can be masked through the use of virtual private network software. But Beijing is hostile to using VPNscommonly used to circumvent the “Great Firewall” that separates China’s heavily censored internet from the rest of the world.
Location data on Weibo first showed that Di Ba, an online group that has organized online campaigns against Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen and pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong, was based in Taiwan. But soon after the location was released, the account switched its IP address to Hong Kong, then to Japan, and later to China’s Zhejiang province.
Weibo said it releases location information to crack down on users impersonating others or “spreading rumors” and to ensure the authenticity of the content.
Analysts said it could also discourage users from posting controversial content.
Zhicong Lu, from the Department of Computer Science at City University of Hong Kong, said location information could help establish the credibility of posted information and fight misinformation, but added: “It’s kind of a double-edged sword, [and also a] some kind of surveillance tool.”
Chinese social media groups reveal nationalist influencers blogging from abroad Source link Chinese social media groups reveal nationalist influencers blogging from abroad