Tencent cracks whip on WeChat users inflating readership numbers

Owners of robot WeChat accounts see drastic fall in number of followers

PUBLISHED : Friday, 30 September, 2016, 8:47pm
UPDATED : Monday, 03 October, 2016, 8:57am

Scores of WeChat public accounts have been found to fake the number of views and likes on their articles via “robot” WeChat accounts, after Tencent sought to block such activity on its platform with a recent back-end update.

Reports by local media on the mainland stated that from Wednesday, many WeChat public accounts which had previously gained over 10,000 views and likes for their articles saw those figures drop dramatically – by as much as 90 per cent – to just a few hundred views.

Owners of public accounts are able to post articles publicly, and WeChat users can follow them to receive notifications of new posts. This makes public accounts a popular platform for lifestyle bloggers and companies alike.

Tencent tests new WeChat feature allowing in-app access to mobile services

Popular accounts often accumulate tens of thousands of views and likes on each article posted, and readership numbers have become a yardstick for how popular or successful a public account is.

However, local reports claim that many of these accounts buy their readership numbers by approaching companies who specialise in creating “fake” WeChat accounts and charge as little as 15 yuan (US$2.25) for 100 views.

58pc of Hongkongers have WeChat account

Once these services have been bought, “robot” accounts would then visit articles repeatedly to boost the number of views.

WeChat released a statement to address the issue, saying that the proliferation of such services have become a mature “black industry chain” that is becoming more advanced and harder to combat.

“It is difficult to resolve the problem all at once, so this ‘cat and mouse’ game will continue for a period of time,” Tencent said in its statement. “We will continue strengthening our technical methods to ensure that this platform is true and fair.”

Tencent also condemned users who faked the data, saying that there is no shame in “false glory” and greatly hurts the companies which play by the book.