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Popular Chinese app censors users for 'wealth bragging' content

App using AI-powered algorithms to identify flamboyant displays of wealth

Employees of Xiaohongshu form up on the ground floor of the company office in Shanghai. 

Employees of Xiaohongshu form up on the ground floor of the company office in Shanghai.  (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — A popular app in China is censoring users that conspicuously flaunt their wealth on the platform.

Xiaohongshu, an app often described as China’s answer to Instagram, announced on Thursday (Nov. 18) that its team had disciplined 240 accounts since May for posting “wealth-bragging content,” according to a Sixth Tone report.

The company also said its methods for tracking and deleting this kind of content are improving since it is continually training AI-powered algorithms to quickly identify offending posts.

Xiaohongshu updated its community guidelines in April. New conditions require users to “avoid showing off consumption power far exceeding that of average people.” “The platform will firmly combat such content, which is detrimental to the user experience and breeds an unhealthy ethos,” an anonymous company spokesperson said in a press release.

The app boasts over 150 million active users and is particularly popular among women. Lifestyle-oriented visual posts on topics such as fashion, travel, skincare, health, and dieting make up the bulk of the content.

Xiaohongshu’s updates are in line with directives given by China’s internet regulators earlier in the year to curb content that shows off excessive wealth or extravagant lifestyles.

Income inequality is a persistent social problem in China due to unequal distribution of the wealth generated by the country’s astronomical economic growth in recent decades. Sensitivity about online wealth-bragging is on the rise as Beijing promotes a new policy of “common prosperity” — a vague concept Chinese leaders say means neither prosperity for just a few nor equal distribution.