Chinese Government Clandestinely Censors WeChat Group Messages
Ron Perillo / 4 years ago
WeChat is the fourth largest chat application in the world with over 806 million active users and it is also the most popular in China. It started as a WhatsApp clone but has grown quickly with Chinese adoption, so needless to say, it is a powerful tool for free information that the Chinese government sees as a threat. The Chinese Government’s propensity for culling internet communications and stifling freedom of speech online is hardly surprising considering their track record. In fact, it is almost expected at this point. However researchers from the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab have found out that if those users go abroad outside of China their WeChat messages will still be subject to keyword and message filtering defined by the Chinese government. This censorship however does not affect users who register outside of China. The researchers from Citizen Lab tested 26,821 keywords that have been blocked on other mainland Chinese websites such as Weibo.The typical “Free Tibet” phrase is automatically censored as well as searches or talks of ISIS and terrorism news.
Of the 806 million active users, 70 million users are estimated to be registered outside of China so it is a significantly small portion compared to the large user base. China is a massive market so many of the social media apps are always looking to get into that market, seeing it as an untapped potential for profit following some companies such as LinkedIn who have seen success in China after agreeing to abide by the Chinese Government’s censorship policies. Even Facebook was revealed to be looking into relaxing their policies on user censorship to break into the market there as reported by New York Times, possibly quietly creating software to suppress posts deemed anti-establishment or critical of the regime.