WeChat, the most popular messaging app in China with over 1.08 billion users, is stepping up censorship in order to comply with government demands.
The focus of the censorship is on what China refers to as ‘self-media’: any of the 3.5 million pieces of content created on the app by users every single month.
The Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) is the government body tasked with maintaining the ruling Communist Party’s firm control over the internet within the country’s borders. Since focusing its attention on the matter on October 20 the CAC has closed down more than 9,800 self-media accounts across both WeChat and Sina Weibo, China’s largest social network.
In a statement on its official blog that Top10VPN.com has translated into English, WeChat said: “the WeChat platform will further strengthen the content and qualification review, self-examination and self-correction, and actively rectify and strictly control the behavior of the platform that damages the content ecology and seriously affects the user’s reading experience,
“[We will] strengthen the crackdown and clean-up of politically harmful information, pornographic vulgarity, political rumors, plagiarism and infringement, etc., to provide users with a healthier reading space.”
While this may sound like a reasonable objective, what it’s expected to mean in reality is a zero-tolerance crackdown on any self-media publishers seen to be spreading political information harmful to, or speaking ill of, the ruling Communist Party.
Many WeChat users utilize the platform to put out sensationalized clickbait content in hopes of gaining followers to better advertise their products to. While that’s not too different to what you might see on similar Western platforms, there’s also a sizable community who use WeChat to share their anti-establishment political views and information that the government would forbid mainstream media outlets from reporting.
In 2018 alone more than 100,000 articles have been deleted by WeChat for allegedly ‘spreading rumors’, while it has banned more than 38,000 self-media accounts over pornographic or violent content.
This isn’t the first time we’ve reported on the CAC in recent weeks. In late October its former head plead guilty in a multi-million dollar corruption case – hardly news to inspire confidence in the agency.