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China’s Great Firewall has created a unique version of the internet that is under constant surveillance and censorship, but a change coming to Weibo takes things to the next level. 

Reuters reports that Weibo will begin showing the rough locations of its users using IP addresses to combat “bad behaviour” online. The locations show up on both profiles and posts.

A post announcing the move from Weibo’s main account had over 200 million views and responses already included the location data, signalling the feature has already come into effect. Users cannot opt-out of having their location displayed. 

In its post, Weibo said that the change aims to “reduce bad behaviour such as impersonating parties involved in hot topic issues, malicious disinformation and traffic scraping, and to ensure the authenticity and transparency of the content disseminated.” 

“Weibo has always been committed to maintaining a healthy and orderly atmosphere of discussion and protecting the rights and interests of users to quickly obtain real and effective information.” 

The Firewall gets higher 

Chinese citizens have long resorted to using VPNs and other privacy tools to help either access non-Chinese services or speak freely online and you can see why. 

While Weibo might say the changes are designed to promote a “healthy and orderly atmosphere” online, the fact that Chinese censors can and will monitor pretty much all online content – especially anything that goes viral – is likely the real reason behind this change.

In a similar view to the Panopticon, visibly showing users that the service knows where they are will lead to self-censorship, reducing the strain on Chinese censors to cover an internet with hundreds of millions of users.

The recent lockdowns in Shanghai and nearby areas have put huge strain on the ability of censors to remove content, perhaps inducing companies to add features that will naturally limit the truthfulness of their users.