China's Twitter-like Weibo kicks out 'idiots', 'sissies' and 'tramps' in username clean-up campaign

The logo of Chinese social media app Weibo seen on a smartphone on Dec 7.
PHOTO: Reuters file

Chinese microblogging platform Weibo has announced that it will no longer tolerate usernames containing “vulgar” language such as “idiot” or “sissy”, telling users to either change their handles or risk having their accounts suspended, a move that comes in response to Beijing’s push to clean up internet content.

The social media platform said it was targeting Chinese words such as biesan, meaning tramp, niangpao, a pejorative referring to effeminate men, and erhuo, roughly translated as idiot.

“The majority of users [with related issues] have changed their usernames,” the company said in a Weibo post on Sunday (Dec 19). “For those accounts that didn’t make the change, we have reset their usernames. Next, we will go through the vulgar language on users’ homepages such as personal profiles and profile pictures.”

Weibo posts that include such words are still searchable on the platform, but a search for the terms in usernames produced no results on Monday.

As one of the few large social media platforms encouraging public discourse in China, Weibo is an important platform for the country’s nearly one billion internet users. While heavily censored, the platform remains a hub for public discussions on issues ranging from the latest coronavirus news to celebrity gossip.

Weibo’s latest move, however, comes after the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) summoned and fined the social media network for repeatedly allowing “information forbidden by laws and regulations”.

Weibo’s share price was up 1.4 per cent to HK$226.30 (S$39.70) in Hong Kong by midday Monday. It remains lower than its issue price of HK$272.80 this month, when it raised HK$385 million in its second listing, after going public on the Nasdaq in 2014. Alibaba Group Holding, owner of the South China Morning Post, is a major shareholder.

Earlier this month, the CAC said it shut down or suspended more than 20,000 influential social media accounts in 2021, some with tens of millions followers amassed over many years, for reasons ranging from “misuse” to failing to promote “core socialist” values.

The top internet regulator also fined social media platform Douban 1.5 million yuan for the “unlawful release of information” earlier this month. A week later, the Ministry of Industry of Information Technology ordered the country’s app stores to remove 106 smartphone apps for data privacy violations, with Douban among them.

READ ALSO: Weibo fined by Chinese regulator for publishing illegal information

This article was first published in South China Morning Post.