Alibaba’s mobile payment app Alipay was this week in the middle of a social media backlash, after new social features were manipulated to create a sexually explicit dating service.
Lucy Peng, the chairwoman of Ant Financial, the payment affiliate of Alibaba, was forced to apologise, according to an internal letter seen by Reuters.
She announced that the company had to remove a group from its ‘circles’ social feature called ‘schoolyard diary’ that some social media users had called out as being ‘like a brothel’.
"These past two days have the most difficult since I had joined Alipay 7 years ago," she said.
According to Reuters, Alipay is China’s number one payment app and had recently started to look outside China for expansion. The company had announced plans to expand in Thailand via a partnership with Thai payment firm Ascend.
The scandal may not impact Alipay’s success instantly, as China’s mobile payments market continues to grow. An estimate earlier this year from eMarketer suggests that 195 million Chinese people will use mobile payments to pay for goods this year alone.