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China's WeChat Now Automatically Censoring Social Media Updates

BY Julia Wetherell | Thursday, January 10 2013

Screengrab from WeChat's website

The Chinese mobile social media app WeChat is now automatically censoring certain keywords, in a further development to the Southern Weekly scandal that has rocked China’s netizens over the past week. Tech in Asia found that the censorship applies not only in China, but appears to occur across WeChat’s international network.

The keywords in question are Chinese characters associated with the group of journalists from Guangzhou’s Southern Weekly newspaper who took a stand against a provincial propaganda chief last week. As techPresident wrote Monday, censorship of the scandal has been rampant throughout Chinese social media.

Now, typing the characters that comprise the newspaper’s name into WeChat results in instantaneous censorship – a message pops up citing “restricted words.” Like all Chinese social media, Tencent, the company behind WeChat, has been subject to strict governmental regulations when it comes to controlling public discourse. As we wrote in December, many Chinese dissidents believe that the company gives the police access to private conversations and GPS movement. WeChat use has grown quickly over the past several months, gaining 100 million users between September and December to pass 300 million. The app has been gaining ground internationally, but a development like this – especially one that extends outside the bounds of the Great Firewall – could set WeChat back.

Personal Democracy Media is grateful to the Omidyar Network for its generous support of techPresident's WeGov section.

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