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2021-11-19 09:58:31

A popular Chinese lifestyle platform has banned wealth-bragging behavior on its site in the latest move to heed the national call to offer healthy online content and better regulate cyberspace.

Operators of the Instagram-like Xiaohongshu announced Thursday that they had so far flagged over 8,700 posts and “punished” 240 accounts deemed as having overtly showed off wealth between May to October. The platform, however, didn’t specify the actions taken against such accounts but added that it had improved its artificial intelligence-powered algorithms to recognize wealth-bragging content more accurately.

“The platform will firmly combat such content, which is detrimental to user experience and breeds an unhealthy ethos,” an unnamed representative from Xiaohongshu said in the press release.

According to Xiaohongshu’s updated community guidelines that went into effect in April, users are asked to “avoid showing off consumption power far exceeding that of average people.”

As the platform hosts a significant amount of content on purchasing processes and consumption decisions, “a good way to judge (wealth-bragging content) is whether this is useful,” meaning it is able to provide tips and help others make decisions in their research process, a Xiaohongshu spokesperson told Sixth Tone, adding user feedback is taken into account in optimizing guidelines and thus its algorithm.

Founded in 2013, Xiaohongshu attracts about 160 million monthly active users, mostly women, who share lifestyle content largely encompassing makeup, skincare, and fashion tips through livestreaming, short videos, photos, and posts.

The social media app has long been associated with content that exaggerates reality, and was slammed last month after several users were found to have posted overly-filtered photos or misleading representations of scenic spots. Xiaohongshu later apologized, saying it advocates “sincere sharing,” urging users to avoid excessive embellishments in their posts.

The lifestyle platform’s latest move aligns with the campaign initiated by the country’s top cyberspace regulator in May, urging social media platforms to prevent bragging about wealth, extravagance, and hedonism that could harm the development of minors.

“Is the content conducive to inspiring people to live in a positive and healthy manner and strive for a better life? Or is it catering to some vulgar urge, triggering people to despise the poor and curry favor with the rich, pursue hedonism, or even the want to be paid for nothing?” Zhang Yongjun, a senior official at China’s Cyberspace Administration, said during a press conference in May.

But even before the official campaign discouraging flashy displays of wealth on social media was launched, Xiaohongshu said in March that it had banned over 2,300 accounts on suspicion of “deliberately flaunting wealth and malicious speculation.” The previous month, two of China’s largest short-video platforms Douyin and Kuaishou also announced they had banned thousands of accounts for showing off wealth.

The vowing of China’s internet giants to tame wealth-flaunting content on their platforms comes as China moves toward “common prosperity” and wealth redistribution. The gap between the rich and the poor has become increasingly prominent over the past four decades, as China became the world’s second-largest economy following reform and opening-up.

Pan Helin, executive dean of Zhongnan University of Economics and Law’s Digital Economic Research Institute, told Sixth Tone that the ultimate goal of posting ostentatious content about wealth is usually to make money — users portray themselves as wealthy, attracting others with the prospect of learning how to get rich, and finally, marketers offer training services or investment suggestions promising to help them do just that.

“Although flaunting wealth is not banned by laws and regulations, the internet is driven by online traffic,” Pan said.

Editor: Bibek Bhandari.

(Header image: IC)