China is not pleased with celebrities’ traffic boosting tricks – particularly the “bots” they employ to fake traffic data.
The state-run CCTV called for a “healthier” entertainment industry, when an investigation it aired this weekend found that roughly one-third of China’s 337 million Weibo users had “shared” and “liked” a pop star’s new album – a number that is not possible.
CCTV did not specify the star’s name, but the broadcaster did show a screenshot of the Weibo page of Cai Xukun, a popular K-Pop-style star who boasts over 22 million followers on the Twitter-like platform.
Celebrities’ commercial values are often judged by their numbers of followers and likes, and traffic boosting has become a lucrative and highly sophisticated market. Spend 10 yuan ($1.5), for instance, and you can purchase 400 bot followers that are managed by machines and professional boosters, CCTV learned.
Some celebrities’ agencies allowed fans to organize album-boosting activities that artificially boost popularity. Some fans even purchase extra IP addresses to like and share songs without being detected by regulators.
In a response on Sunday, Weibo said it was aware of the “abnormally high volume” of shares of some celebrities’ posts. It also said it now limits the number of shares and comments that can be displayed on a Weibo account to 1 million, so as not to not encourage traffic boosting – though that limit had already been introduced earlier this month, before CCTV’s investigation aired.
Cai is not the only celebrity facing criticism for allowing bots. Superstar Kris Wu also made headlines last year music sales in the U.S. iTunes store were investigated on suspicion of data manipulation.