Ant Financial, which owns Alipay, told Quartz that over 100 social or interest groups covering areas from internet to reading to parenting are now being tested in the “Circles” service.
These groups are run by Alipay’s business partners and have their own rules regarding which users are authorized to posts or comments, a company spokesperson noted. 28, Alipay introduced another 18 “Circles” groups, which don’t have female-only rules, via its official account on messaging app We Chat.
Whats App, which is owned by Facebook and offers end-to-end encryption, has a relatively small but loyal following among users seeking a greater degree of privacy from government snooping than afforded by popular domestic app We Chat, which is ubiquitous but closely monitored and filtered.
Users are sent to a transaction page to donate money—the default is less than 1 yuan (14 cents) but you can go as high as 200 yuan—to the author of the post.
So what’s drawing millions of Chinese users to Alipay’s new service? Photos of scantily clad women showing their cleavage—accompanied by text asking male users for tips, chats, or booty calls—flooded these groups within hours after its launch, Chinese tech media reported (link in Chinese). 28 statement on Weibo (link in Chinese, registration required) that the new service is still in the testing stage and vowed to crack down on “harmful” information.
Because all Alipay users are registered by their real name, there’s no fake accounts soliciting tips or promising in-person meetings.
Any total stranger can friend these female bloggers, and send private messages or transfer money directly to their Alipay accounts within seconds.
Nadim Kobeissi, a cryptography researcher based in Paris who has been investigating the Whats App disruption, said he believed The Great Firewall was only blocking access to Whats App servers that route media between users, while leaving servers that handle text messages untouched.