Updated 8:44 AM EDT, Wed, Aug 18, 2021

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WeChat Accounts Suspended By Tencent Due To New Censorship Rules In China


(Photo : Reuters)

More than 300 WeChat mobile accounts have been suspended by China's Tencent Holdings, Ltd. In addition, approximately 40 other messaging app accounts have been banned by the company. The decision to temporarily put on hold the aforementioned social networking accounts has been made in adherence to the government restrictions imposed recently. Reports show that such messaging apps and other social media platforms have been employed to spread political news online.

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In an earlier report, the Chinese government has released a new set of rules to regulate the types of information allowed to be disseminated online, specifically targeting news sharing practices via instant messaging apps. In addition, new guidelines have been imposed bolstering the restrictions on the social media account permitted to broadcast news stories to a large number of followers. The updated and strengthened policies regarding news distribution via online sites, the providers of the instant messaging apps, such as Tencent, are tasked to put in force the new protocols themselves.   

As of August 25, Tencent has already shut down 357 accounts. From these users, 46 accounts have been declared to be permanently prohibited to publish news stories to a large group of people. State media Xinhua news agency stated in its microblog that the remaining accounts were merely suspended from operating as of the moment.

Spectators comment that these new guidelines serve as confirmations on President Xi Jinping's goal of leading the most severe cleanup on the internet and online censorship in China to date. The state media divulged that Xi is also the head of the Central Internet Security and Informatisation Leading Group, which is an internet security body aiming to make China into a cyber power.

A scholar conducting extensive research on China's internet censorship, Harvard University professor Gary King, shared in an earlier interview that the ruling Communist Party was specifically apprehensive over the possibility of social unrest or collective action resulting from the uncontrolled distribution of political messages. Notably, social media platforms have played major roles in the political revolutions in countries such as Tunisia and Egypt.

At present, no comment has been given by Tencent. As of June this year, WeChat had been recorded to have roughly 438 million active users. 

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