Great Firewall to hit WeChat International Users
For international WeChat users, the Great Firewall of China may be coming to you soon. Tencent is the owner and creator of WeChat, a messaging and voice communication app. Within the last two years, after its transformation from ‘Weixin’ to WeChat, the app has successfully amassed over 300 million users with 70 million of those residing overseas. With such success, Tencent is planning on expanding past Southeast Asian countries like Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong and firmly rooting itself in western markets. But they’re risking it all because Chinese authorities have apparently forced WeChat to censor ‘sensitive’ words. Chinese netizens have already gotten used to Weibo’s new censorship but did not expect WeChat to follow suit.
In January 2013, 南方周末 (Nan fang zhou mo) Southern Weekend newspaper was in conflict with the censorship of the Chinese government due to controversial publications on topics like an interview with Obama. The author of the interview was punished and the magazine covered the result as well. How is 南方周末 related to WeChat? It would be expected that users residing in China would be censored by the Great Firewall, but to some international users’ surprise, they were prevented from sending any texts or messages that contained the Chinese words 南方周末. Tech in Asia conducted tests where foreign users and local users tried to send the Chinese characters and failed. Though users could easily bypass the block by spelling out the newspaper’s name in English, this was a huge indicator that international users could still be censored by the Chinese government.