Book Chapter

Demographic inequalities in digital spaces in China: the case of Weibo

Qian, W., Hexel, O., Zagheni, E., Kashyap, R., Weber, I. G.
In: Kleanthous, S., Park, M., Tsur, O. (Eds.): Workshop Proceedings of the Seventeenth International AAAI Conference on Web and Social Media (ICWSM-23): Limassol, Cyprus, June 5th - 8th, 2023, 1–6
Workshop Proceedings of the 17th International AAAI Conference on Web and Social Media 17
Palo Alto, CA, AAAI Press (2023)
Open Access


We provide the first systematic, large-scale exploration of user counts by age, gender, and location on Weibo, the world’s largest microblogging platform, using data from its advertising platform. Digital platforms potentially give access to information, economic opportunities, and social participation to underserved groups, and can be used for information dissemination during emergency situations and humanitarian response. The trace data that they produce is potentially more timely, of higher spatial or temporal resolution, and available for difficult-to-reach populations, than data from traditional sources. Whether this potential is fully realized however depends on who actually participates in these online spaces. We contribute to a growing body of research investigating the demographic characteristics of social media platforms, and on the population generalizability of digital trace data in non-Western, non-English-language contexts. We show that Weibo users are disproportionately young, female, and urban. Use of Weibo is higher in areas that are more economically prosperous and with a more educated population.

Keywords: China, computational social science, digital demography, gender, social network
The Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) in Rostock is one of the leading demographic research centers in the world. It's part of the Max Planck Society, the internationally renowned German research society.