We Chat thrives on the huge user base it has amassed in China, but the Chinese market carries unique challenges.
Any Internet company operating in China is subject to laws and regulations that hold companies legally responsible for content on their platforms.
We found that keyword filtering is enabled on We Chat for users with accounts registered to mainland China phone numbers.
Filtering remains enabled even if users later link their account with a non-mainland China number, which means that users with accounts registered to mainland China will remain under censorship regardless if they travel or unlink their Chinese phone number from the account.
We used a sample of keywords found blocked on other apps used in China and systematically tested that sample in two modes: one-to-one chat and group chat.Popular Public Accounts that discuss current affairs and politics, such as the Consensus Website (共识网), Truth Channel (真话频道), Luo Changping (罗昌平), and Elephant Magazine (大象工会), were shut down overnight.Tencent issued a statement explaining that it “strictly prohibits publishing pornographic, vulgar, violent, bloody, political rumors and any illegal content.” The company said the action was “part of the commitment to providing quality user experience on Weixin in China,” and that it would “continually review and take measures” on suspicious content.In 2010, China’s State Council Information Office (SCIO) published a major government-issued document on its Internet policy.It includes a list of prohibited topics that are vaguely defined, including “disrupting social order and stability” and “damaging state honor and interests.” In late-May 2014, China’s State Internet Information Office (SIIO), Ministry of Public Security (MPS), and the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) jointly launched a month-long campaign targeting Chinese instant messaging (IM) services in a bid to clean up “illegal and harmful information” and to fend off “hostile forces at home and abroad.” In recent years, We Chat has faced increased regulatory pressures.