WeChat: Censoring Across Borders

Yesterday, TechInAsia reported that Chinese Internet giant Tencent’s massively popular messaging app WeChat has begun applying censorship policy to users residing outside of China: Right now, the Chinese name of the outspoken magazine caught up in a tense struggle of willswith the government – Southern Weekend in English, 南方周末 (nan fang zhou mo) in Chinese – is censored in Chinese on WeChat. But it’s not just restricted to users in China (where the app is called Weixin), and typing that name in the Chinese language is now blocked globally. The restriction notice says (pictured): The message “南方周末” you sent contains restricted words. Please check it again. We’ve tested it out going from users in China to Thailand (blocked), Thailand to China (blocked), and even Thailand to Singapore (blocked); the prohibited words are not sent at all. The name of the magazine can be sent in English. TechInAsia contacted Tencent for a comment, and a newer post quotes the company writing off the restricted characters as a “technical glitch”. The post goes on to offer “incriminating evidence” that the restrictions were more deliberate: Referring to the case as a “glitch”, the full statement given to us reads: A small number of WeChat international users were not able to send certain messages due to a technical glitch this Thursday. Immediate actions have been taken to rectify it. We apologize for any inconvenience it has caused to our users. We will continue to improve the product features and technological support to provide better user experience. Indeed, testing out the offending phrase today, it does now work within WeChat. […]But what about that warning that many saw? It’s as clear as day in many screenshots. “The message “南方周末” you sent contains restricted words. Please check it again.” Yes: Restricted words. That’s no error message. ...
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