How WeChat Hides its Censorship

WeChat reportedly cloaks its censorship in ambiguity. (Image: Wechat)
WeChat reportedly cloaks its censorship in ambiguity. (Image: Wechat)

The Wall Street Journal reported on how WeChat is complying with the Chinese authorities’ recently announced new regulations on “instant messaging tools”.

The new regulations specifically target a popular WeChat feature called public accounts, which can be set up by anyone from news organizations, to activists, to consumer products.

How WeChat censors these public posts is not obvious, as there is no way to search for specific content on the public platform, and thus no list of blocked keywords can be uncovered.

However, one indicator of censorship is an error message—“This content has been reported by multiple people, and the related content is unable to be shown”—that users occasionally see when browsing public posts.

An analysis of the deleted posts indicates that WeChat is likely taking a more interventionist role than the error message suggests. The content in the deleted posts is similar to the sensitive content that routinely gets removed from Weibo and other government-censored platforms.

Asked to clarify how it decides to remove content, WeChat said only that it takes unspecified measures against “offensive and abusive activities” based on user feedback, and “in line with relevant guidelines on illegal and pornographic content.”

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