Companies are expected to invest in staff and filtering technologies to moderate content and stay in compliance with government regulations.
Failure to comply can lead to fines or revocation of operating licenses.
This change means there is no feedback to users that censorship has occured making the restrictions on We Chat less transparent.
Censored keywords spanned a range of content, including current events, politics, and social issues.
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.
very site that is uniquely blocked on China accounts is fully accessible on International accounts, meaning that international users can successfully access the same URLs with We Chat’s internal browser.
We Chat is owned and operated by Tencent, one of China’s largest technology companies.
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.
Beyond the Chinese market, We Chat has made considerable efforts to grow its user base internationally.
Tencent launched advertising campaigns targeting foreign markets, recruiting football star Lionel Messi and Bollywood actors to endorse the app.