This Monday, Americans honored the legacy of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. with a national holiday and “day of service.”. WeChat also honored the slain leader by instituting a feature in which a cascade of American flags fell down the screen when a user typed “civil rights” in a message. However, Tencent, which operates WeChat, later issued an apology, saying that a technical error made the feature available in China, when it should have only been available for users in the U.S. From Chris Luo at the South China Morning Post:
Chinese mobile users were surprised to see icons of the Star-Spangled Banner “rain down” their app screen whenever they typed the words “civil rights” in conversations with friends.
WeChat, developed and operated by internet giant Tencent, apologised on Monday, saying the feature was only supposed to be available to US users, but technical errors resulted in it being available to Chinese users.
“Due to some backstage setting errors, it has been available to all WeChat users,” it said this afternoon. “We apologise for any misunderstandings caused.”
[…] “[We] also tried keywords like ‘National Day’, ‘China’, and ‘Five-Starred Red Flag’ [the national flag of China], but nothing happens!” the Committee of the Communist Youth League in southern Fujian province said in a Weibo post.
“What are your intentions?” the league said, questioning WeChat’s decision. [Source]
Reuters reports on Tencent’s statement of apology, which was not accepted by all users:
“We request everybody’s forgiveness,” Tencent said in its post, titled ‘An explanation’. “WeChat’s path to internationalisation isn’t easy… We will try even harder!”
[…] “If there’s a function for Martin Luther King’s birthday, what are you going to do for Mao Zedong’s and Zhou Enlai’s?” wrote one microblog user. “Rubbish WeChat.” [Source]
Wow, new and interesting WeChat discovery. Typing "civil rights" on WeChat leads to a showering of American flags. pic.twitter.com/QkbdPXmj4N
— Paul Mozur (@paulmozur) January 16, 2015
WeChat pulled the falling US flags when you type "civil rights". I'm still waiting for Union Jacks at "colonialism" http://t.co/zkbSDta8wD
— Alec Ash (@alecash) January 20, 2015
Is that an upgrade of the old feature where you type 'civil rights' & get a visit from the Min. of State Security?http://t.co/kFeU09XjA2
— Ryan Aherin (@R_Aherin) January 20, 2015
The feature has since been disabled for all users.