‘Poor’ Chinese Users Are Pissed at WeChat For Not Showing Them Ads For Rich People
WeChat has angered some of its Chinese users after the app company allegedly targeted ads based on the users’ income levels.
The mobile communications company started showing ads to users’ friends circles on January 25. From there, some Chinese users began complaining because they were not seeing ads from BMW, of which some in their circles were seeing. They then accused WeChat of discriminating against users with lower incomes by switching out the BMW ads with smartphones or Coca-Cola ads instead.
What’s the algorithm behind how WeChat allegedly does this? According to a text image translated from Chinese that went viral online from an unknown source:
“They say the ads in WeChat friend circles are based on big data analytics by looking into the attribution of the language and photos used in the user’s friend circle. The technology involves artificial intelligence including semantic understanding of the words and graphic analysis. The so-called ads service is based on an experiment in artificial intelligence, which was developed inside [parent company] Tencent long ago. Here comes the answer [concerning the ads]: for those who have an annual income above one million yuan [approximately US $150,000] and can consume more, they receive BMW ads; for those who can afford a Xiao Mi [a local mobile brand], you get Vivo [a smart phone brand] ; and those who can’t even afford Xiao Mi or even Red Mi, you get the Coco Cola ads. Those who have the time to hang around in friend circles but can’t see any ads, the message from WeChat is: work hard if you don’t have money, don’t waste time refreshing your phone.”
Some people have taken to Weibo (essentially China’s Twitter) to express their frustration from not seeing the BMW ads, according to Weibo user “Our Hui Zhou”
“Distressed after refreshing the friend circle timeline all day and still I couldn’t see the BMW ad… The friend circle ads are really sophisticated, and those who do not have income like me are discriminated against.”
Others were actually offended because they considered themselves rich but still didn’t see the ad. A WeChat user by the name of Vashin told the Financial Times:
“I’m a nouveau riche in a top-tier city using an Apple 6 plus and I didn’t receive the BMW ads, so I’m going to buy a Mercedes.”