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China Regulations - Major Chinese Platforms display IP Location of Users

This is part of our series on the regulatory policies updates, reports and advertising laws - Medical Advertising, January Update (RED Bans 29 Apps), December Update, November Update, October Update, Anti-Monopoly Crackdown, PIPL, Advertising Law.

On April 15th, Douyin, Toutiao, Kuaishou, Zhihu, Baijiahao (Baidu content platform) and other platforms announced that they will launch the function of displaying user IP location. Weibo has even upgraded the function of displaying users’ IP location, which was launched in March, including opening the comment area to display the IP location and the launch of the “the first-level page of personal homepage display the IP location” function. Weibo officials stated that the account IP location is subject to the information provided by the operator, and related displays do not support turning on or off manually, aiming to present the truth to users more transparently. However, some media, enterprises, celebrities, etc. that have undergone “real-name authentication at the front end” will not display their location, but users with “real-name authentication at the back end” will still display their location. This is mainly due to the front end real-name authentication is more real than displaying the location.

The online IP location is mainly due to the draft of the “Provisions on the Administration of Internet Account Information Services” that China is revising. One of the regulations is that a location label is required for publishing information, and the second is that there has been a lot of false information circulating on the internet recently, in order to purify the network environment, and at the same time protect the legal rights of users and effectively reduce the content of rumours.

Both Toutiao and Douyin proposed that the purpose of displaying the account IP is to maintain a real and orderly discussion atmosphere, reduce impersonation of hot event parties, and at the same time protect the legal rights of users, and effectively reduce the content of rumours.

Kuaishou stated that it was to prevent some netizens from spam traffic in hot events, spreading false information, and impersonating parties to interfere with normal discussion; Xiaohongshu’s announcement also stated that it was to maintain a real and interactive community atmosphere, prevent the behaviour of impersonating local netizens for hot events to spread rumours.

The IP location of the account is the network location of the user when he last posted or commented in the last month, it is displayed in provinces (direct-administered municipalities, autonomous regions, special administrative regions), overseas display to countries (regions).

Disclosing IP location will not infringe on the privacy right, the IP location of users who only read information without comment will not be displayed. In addition, IP location will not disclose the exact IP address, but only the province where they are located. Therefore, as a whole, this regulation only plays an important role in the clear cyberspace environment.

As soon as the “IP location” function was launched, many verified bloggers authenticity descended into chaos. Some marketing accounts known as local bloggers in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen are actually posted in Hunan. In addition, there are a large number of internet celebrities hidden in the crowd have also “revealed” that they are not where they claim they are. Publicly revealing IP location measures can effectively manage this chaos and improve the network ecology.

(Picture source: Sohu)

The “Grey” industrial chain is also online

With the launch of the "IP location" function, the business of paid IP agents has quietly risen, forming a “grey” industry chain. According to reports, some e-commerce platforms have quietly appeared with paid IP agency services at affordable prices, the seller claims to be able to change IP addresses and support all platforms, but most of them are only short-acting IPs. At present, the seller that provides the service of changing the IP attribution, the servers are generally located in China. There are fewer merchants providing foreign servers, and the asking price is higher.

Law enforcement has been cracking down on such illegal IP proxy services. Last year, the public security bureau cooperated with the relevant departments to check 82 related service companies and shut down more than 13,000 illegal broadband internet lines and more than 5,000 broadband internet accounts.

The law enforcement takes advantage of the existing “IP proxy” chaos, they have launched a rectification campaign to identify more illegal agents who are submerging, and breaking this black production chain. At the same time, all major e-commerce platforms should strengthen supervision and screening, and strictly prohibit IP agent online stores, in order to cut off any e-commerce sales channels for illegal sellers.

After all, this black industry chain is hidden from the public eye, only a few people with specific purposes will buy it, for example, people with the intention to use dynamic IP proxy services to connect to the internet and invade the local network to steal confidential information. Even though legally, there are currently no relevant penalties for users, the usage of IP proxy services will leads to the risk of leakage of user information such as browsing records, account passwords, etc., and is more likely to be misused by criminals.

The “IP location” displayed by major platforms has obviously caused many bloggers to reveal their secrets, and also made the public worry about privacy leakage, so the business of IP proxy services start to be promoted. However, netizens are not recommended to use the proxy service to avoid any irreparable losses.

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