Not surprisingly, the Chinese government has again launched a separate crackdown on the popular social messaging app of Tencent Holdings Ltd’s WeChat. According to sources, the Chinese government has already cracked down and closed a number of accounts that are followed by hundreds of thousands of the app’s users.
Many WeChat users noticed the disappearance of a number of public accounts starting Thursday, March 13. When they tried accessing those accounts, they instead read a message box that says that those were closed due to violations of the service’s policies.
Interestingly, most of those public accounts were noted for their political themes and criticisms towards the Chinese government. To many observers and analysts, this could be another sign that China is serious in increasing its censorship over the online media.
WeChat public accounts
For its part, Tencent simply releases a short explanation. It asserts that the closures of those accounts were imposed as part of its measure to further improve quality experience of its users. In a statement released to several media organizations via email, the company reiterated that it continuously reviews and acts on suspicious cases of illegal content, violence, pornography, and spam. It even calls on Chinese Internet users to report violations to its online policies through its designated 24-hour hotline.
To date, WeChat has around 300 million users, mostly in the mainland. This makes the service among the most popular mobile app products in the country. It has become a local social networking service, where Chinese users could share pictures and posts to their friends who also use the app.
WeChat has created ‘public accounts’ in its commitment to support businesses and organizations in promoting their brands and advocacies on the app. WeChat users could readily access and subscribe to those public accounts instantly and for free. This is why some parties use this as an opportunity to communicate to the public their sentiments against the government.
This crackdown, as it may be called or considered, is not surprising. Last November, China identified WeChat as among the popular social networking apps that it aims to eventually control in the future. Back then, some authorities had expressed their concern on how the service could rapidly disseminate information. They warned that the service could possibly be used by other parties to destabilize the government.
Sina Weibo, China’s local social networking site, has already been subjected to a similar scrutiny. The Chinese government has been cracking down fake information and rumors against it by deleting accounts and at time, jailing those users who are proven to air anti-government sentiments.