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China’s Latest Viral App Sparks Discussion On Data-Collecting Methods

China’s latest viral sensation, the ‘Personality Label’ app, has taken Chinese social media sites by storm. But after reportedly violating WeChat community guidelines, skeptical netizens have triggered a discussion on the rules surrounding popular apps.

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China’s latest viral sensation, the ‘Personality Label’ app, has taken Chinese social media sites by storm. But after reportedly violating WeChat community guidelines, skeptical netizens have triggered a discussion on the rules surrounding popular apps.

China’s social media sites are never short of trends that can dominate user’s newsfeeds for weeks at a time. However, the latest fad to explode onto the apps of Chinese social media platforms such as Sina Weibo and WeChat seems to have been encountering some issues during its brief time in the spotlight, leading to an online debate on viral apps and the information they collect.

This week, an app by the name of Plato Personality Label (柏拉图性格标签) has been widely circulated among Chinese netizens. The app promises to ‘measure’ your personality with a short test before producing an aesthetically pleasing collage detailing your character. Users are presented with a series of phrases such as “Values their principles!” (“重视原则!”) or “Sometimes overly ambitious” (“有时会好高骛远”).

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The premise is simple enough, and has spread quickly due to the QR-scanning function available on many Chinese social media apps.

After scanning the QR code, users are directed to an official WeChat account under the name of ‘Hangzhou City West’ (杭州大城西).  Once users enter the official account, it invites you to take the personality test under the slogan “Create your own label, endorse yourself!” (“生成你的性格标签,为自己代盐!”). The app then takes your name (4 characters maximum), and birth date, before ‘calculating’ your personality.

The resulting pictures were soon littered around WeChat and Weibo, particularly after popular online celebrity Papi Jiang featured the app on her official Weibo account (@搭配酱). Her post featured numerous screenshots of various personality labels under celebrities’ names, saying: “When I woke up this morning, my whole newsfeed was covered in people’s personality labels.”

Many netizens were spurred into trying the app after seeing it spread through social media. Among many similar posts, user @Baby柒小柒 commented: “So many people on my newsfeed playing ‘Personality Label’, so I had to try it myself!”

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Others were anxious to point out flaws in the personality test after putting celebrity names in. One Weibo user (@裂缝中的阳光25) responded to Papi Jiang’s post: “The test result that I got for Zhang Yixing wasn’t the same, did you not put in the star sign? It seems like you got it wrong.”

Some of the even higher-rated comments under a news report by Sina Tech contained cautions by those who were more sceptical of the app’s intentions: “Viral apps are really annoying, and I have a small suspicion that they’re stealing people’s personal information,” one netizen said (@一只都放假).

User @UTOUU-仙参 agreed, writing: “Feel sick looking at this kind of stuff, who knows what information they collect and what they do with it behind the scenes?”

Amongst the mixed reviews, the app’s rapid rise to popularity has not entirely been smooth sailing. It was only shortly after the app was gaining steam that users began to be directed away from the page and presented with a warning that the site had been removed.

Sina Tech reported that despite the app soaring through the download charts from the 150th to the 10th place, it was later removed for violating WeChat community guidelines, sparking a debate on how WeChat responds to popular apps using its platform, as well as a discussion on whether they enforce their guidelines selectively.

Despite this hiccup, the app went online again at roughly 11:30pm on Sunday night, July 17th.

It is not yet known why WeChat decided to reverse their decision of removal – although parts of the app may have been modified to comply with existing guidelines.

As in the Weibo comments above, some users reported having to previously enter their star sign amongst other information, whereas the app now solely asks for a name and birth date. It seems that for now, this viral app is here to stay, provided it follows the rules. Whether netizens will continue to download it or not might just be a matter of personality.

By Cat Hanson

©2016 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Cat Hanson is a U.K. graduate of Chinese Studies now teaching and living in China. She swapped Beijing for Anhui, and runs her own blog on China life: Putong Press.

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China Digital

Will Weibo Become 30% State-Media Owned?

Alibaba is allegedly ready to give up its Weibo shares to SMG.

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Bloomberg recently reported that Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba is preparing to sell its 30% stake in social media platform Weibo. According to people familiar with the matter, Alibaba is negotiating with the state-owned Shanghai Media Group (SMG).

News about Alibaba planning to sell all of its Weibo shares has triggered some online discussions on the Chinese social media platform. Bloomberg was the first to report that the Chinese e-commerce and IT enterprise is talking to the state-owned Shanghai Media Group (SMG) to sell all of its 30% stake in Weibo.

According to Bloomberg, the move relates to regulators wanting to curb the influence of Chinese tech giants in the media sphere. The Bloomberg article claims that SMG, as one of China’s largest state-owned media and cultural conglomerates, stands a higher chance of gaining the approval of Chinese authorities than a private acquirer.

SMG is a large state-owned enterprise with over a dozen TV and radio stations, many newspapers and magazines, various drama & film production and distribution businesses, and more. The company has a major media influence, not only in Shanghai but throughout the country.

According to Weibo’s 2020 annual reports, New Wave held a 45% stake in Weibo, followed by Alibaba with its 30%. New Wave is the holding company by Weibo chairman Charles Chao.

“Weibo will change into another channel for SMG,” some Weibo users predict, with others also sharing their fear that Weibo would become more and more like a platform for official media (“微博现在越来越官方化”).

“This would be a big milestone in the crumbling of Alibaba’s media empire,” another commenter wrote. Some wonder if the developments have more to do with Weibo as a platform, or with Alibaba and its media influence.

In March of 2021, the Wall Street Journal already reported that the Chinese government asked the Alibaba Group to dispose of its media assets due to concerns over the company’s influence in the sensitive media sphere.

“When Alibaba exits and state-owned capital enters, Weibo is expected to magnificently transform into a ‘state-owned enterprise’,” another Weibo user wrote.

Although some commenters worry that Weibo will change for the worse and that there will be more censorship, others see a sunnier future for the social media platform: “It would be good for Weibo to be ‘state-owned’ so that it won’t be controlled by capital to influence public opinion anymore.”

Chinese tech site 36kr also reported about the issue on January 1st, but neither Weibo nor Alibaba or SGM have officially responded yet.

By Manya Koetse

With contributions by Miranda Barnes.

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2021 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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China’s Livestreaming Queen Viya Goes Viral for Fraud and Fines, Ordered to Pay $210 Million

Viya, the Queen of Taobao, is under fire for tax evasion.

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Viya, one of China’s most well-known and successful live streamers, is trending today for allegedly committing tax fraud by deliberately providing false information and concealing personal income.

The ‘Taobao queen’ Viya (薇娅, real name Huang Wei 黄薇) reportedly committed tax fraud from 2019 to 2020, during which she evaded some 643 million yuan ($100 million) in taxes and also failed to pay an additional 60 million yuan ($9.4 million) in taxes.

The Hangzhou Tax Administration Office reportedly ordered Viya to pay an amount of over 1.3 billion yuan ($210 million) in taxes, late payment fees, and other fines. On Monday, a hashtag related to the issue had garnered over 600 million views on Weibo (#薇娅偷逃税被追缴并处罚款13.41亿元#).

Viya made headlines in English-language media earlier this year when she participated in a promotional event for Single’s Day on October 20th and managed to sell 20 billion yuan ($3.1 billion) in merchandise in just one live streaming session together with e-commerce superstar Lipstick King.

China has a booming livestreaming e-commerce market, and Viya is one of the top influencers to have joined the thriving online sales industry years ago. When the e-commerce platform Taobao started their Taobao Live initiative (mixing online sales with livestreams), Viya became one of their top sellers as millions of viewers starting joining her channel every single day (she livestreams daily at 7.30 pm).

With news about Viya’s tax fraud practices and enormous fines going viral on Chinese social media, many are attacking the top influencer, as her tax fraud case seems to be even bigger than that of Chinese actress Fan Bingbing (范冰冰).

Chinese actress Fan Bingbing went “missing” for months back in 2018 when she was at the center of a tax evasion scandal. The actress was ordered to pay taxes and fines worth hundreds of millions of yuan over tax evasion. The famous actress eventually paid approximately $128,5 million in taxes and fines, less than Viya was ordered to pay this month.

Like Fan Bingbing, Viya will also not be held criminally liable if the total amount is paid in time. This was the first time for the e-commerce star to be “administratively punished” for tax evasion.

Around 5pm on Monday, Viya posted a public apology on her Weibo account, saying she takes on full responsibility for the errors she made: “I was wrong, and I will bear all the consequences for my mistakes. I’m so sorry!”

It is not clear if she will still do her daily live stream later today and how this news will impact Viya’s future career.

Update: Vaya’s live stream was canceled.

Update 2: Vaya’s husband also issued an apology on Weibo.

Update 3: Taobao has suspended or ‘frozen’ (“冻结”) Vaya’s livestreaming channel. Her Taobao store is still online.

By Manya Koetse

With contributions by Miranda Barnes.

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2021 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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