133 WeChat Accounts Closed for “Distorting History”

Reuters’ Paul Carsten reports that Tencent has shut down 133 accounts on their popular instant messaging service WeChat for “distorting history” on the order of the :

The accounts, including one whose name translates as “This is not history”, spread “fabricated information” and confused the public, the official Xinhua news agency said, citing the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC).

The censored accounts “were against laws and regulations”, “disobeyed socialist core values” and “severely disturbed the online order”.

declined to provide immediate comment.

China’s CAC, helmed by internet czar Lu Wei, has presided over sharp increase in state-mandated censorship and a campaign to “cleanse” the internet. [Source]

The South China Morning Post’s Adrian Wan looks at the type of content that likely prompted censors to shutter the recently closed WeChat accounts:

Some posts that likely crossed the authority’s line included a commentary on how patriotism was a mere slogan for corrupt officials, many of whom had sent their family members overseas. Another post slammed state-owned firms for milking the public and being mismanaged.

Among the accounts closed was also one that belonged to a 37-year-old Shanghai man.

“I realised on Monday morning that it had been banned,” said the man, whose account – that had about 300,000 subscribers – featured content similar to that of “This is not History”.

“I wasn’t too surprised because many of my friends … also had their accounts shut down without warning. [Source]

Last week, it was reported that 50 websites and WeChat accounts had been shut down for a range of offenses, including “publishing political news without permits,” over the past two months. Authorities’ control over  has been steadily expanding in recent years. A 2013 anti-rumor campaign was given partial credit for a mass exodus from Sina’s Weibo microblogging platform to Tencent’s WeChat. In March of 2014, a crackdown on WeChat, subsequent monthlong renewal in May, and ongoing anti-vulgarity drive launched around the same time further reinforced authorities’ “Internet management” capabilities. Last August, Internet regulators unrolled new regulations for instant messaging including real name registration. According to the Global Times, 80% of WeChat users had registered their names as of last monthm, and the South China Morning Post recently reported that real name registration rules are set to expand in 2015. Citing a CAC official, a Xinhua report from last week boasts that over a billion “harmful posts,” 2,200 websites, and 20 million other online venues were closed last year in an online “cleanup operation.”

While hosting the World Internet Conference in Wuzhen, Zhejiang last November, China defended its tight control of the Internet. Read more about Internet censorship in China, via CDT.