Last week, a popular Chinese vlogger known as “Your Highness Qiao Biluo" showed her face on live video broadcast for the very first time—unmasking herself as a 58-year-old woman. This came as something of a surprise to her 50,000-plus followers, who had previously worshipped Qiao as a young “cute goddess” and, in the immediate aftermath of the exposé, left the livestream in droves. Now, according to a lawyer, some of them could sue her for fraud.
VICE initially reported that Qiao had been using a beauty cam filter to make her face look younger, and that the software glitched mid-livestream, exposing her true form à la Melisandre from Game of Thrones. New details have since come to light revealing that in fact, Qiao’s followers were duped by a series of photographs and short clips she uploaded to the Douyu vlogging platform portraying a young woman, along with her subsequent refusal to show her face during any of her live broadcasts. During last week’s fatal livestream, Qiao’s appearance was obscured behind an anime-style cartoon image.
"I can't show my face until I receive gifts worth 100,000 yuan,” she insisted. “After all, I'm a good-looking host." Then the software “glitched”, and the mask fell away.
It’s a story that’s since gone viral around the world: a middle-aged woman masquerading as a young model who is caught red-handed when her software crashes. But however haywire the incident may have appeared—and in spite of the schadenfreude it may have elicited—it did wonders for Qiao’s fanbase.
In the week or so since the grand reveal, Your Highness Qiao Biluo’s followers have ballooned from 100,000 to nearly 1 million. She’s reportedly started taking advertisements for beauty cameras, and has announced plans to release a music album. And in yet another twist, she's recently claimed that the alleged slip-up was actually a cunning marketing ploy from the beginning—a publicity stunt cooked up by a branding agency whose services she had engaged for 280,000 yuan ($58,700 AUD), according to Sixth Tone.
Essentially, Qiao catfished tens of thousands of loyal followers into thinking she was someone she wasn’t. In the world of Chinese vlogging, where online celebrities or wanghong attract huge sums of money from legions of loyal fans, that’s a lucrative lie to make—and at least one follower allegedly sent more than 100,000 yuan (about $21,000 AUD) to Your Highness Qiao Biluo based on the false pretense that she was the young, doe-eyed woman she claimed to be.
According to a lawyer, those defrauded fans could now be entitled to claim compensation under China’s contract law. Jiang Zhimin of Jiangsu Jukai Law Firm told The Paper that Qiao’s wilfully deceptive practices amounted to fraud, and those who had been swindled on false pretenses could lodge a claim on that basis. He also noted that the streaming site—in this case Douyu—should be responsible for verifying its hosts’ identities upon registration of new accounts.
Another well-known Chinese livestreamer by the name of Zhang Qing told Phoenix New Media that “although a filter is a type of software modification often used by hosts, it constitutes deception when [the result] is such a far stretch from reality. Such hosts lack real talent, and they’re unlikely to stand the test of time.”
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