Chinese online payment platform Alipay is testing a new social feature that has caused controversy amid reports it is facilitating prostitution and hook-ups.
The new social circles feature enables users to send photos, videos and comments to others on the app.
Owned by Alibaba Group, Alipay is a third party payment system that works with over 65 payment companies and carries no transaction fees.
And as it stands, the Alipay app has 400m users, who can now chat on the app through the new Quanzi (or Social Circles) feature.
With Quanzi, users can join “Circles” of people who share the same interests, occupations and lifestyles as them, and in a similar fashion to Instagram Stories, send photos and videos to people in the same groups as them.
If users like what they see, they can comment on posts and even “tip” people by transferring anything from 1 yuan to 200 yuan (around £0.12 to £23.32) all within the Alipay app.
So far, the app is said to be testing around 100 Circles, which are supposedly run by Alipay business partners, which means each has its own agenda for who can post, comment and tip.
Because of this model, and the fact that in some Circles only female users can send photos, serious concerns have been raised over the type of content that is being posted on the app.
Over the weekend, the new feature generated a lot of controversy in the Chinese media, over reports that the app’s infrastructure quickly made the product a hotbed for selling sex.
Wang Sicong, an internet celebrity and the son of China’s richest man, posted a screenshot of the app on Weibo with a caption that translates as “Alipimp”, or “pay the pimp”.
In a statement yesterday, Alipay said the service was still in the testing stage, and the company was cracking down on “harmful” accounts and use cases.
To find out more about Alipay please click here.