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China Shuts Down WeChat Accounts For Distorting History

Tuesday, February 24th, 2015

It is a well-known fact that there are no real limits to internet censorship inside China. Anything and everything that goes against the official diktat of the government is a legitimate target of censorship within the country. A few days after blocking Gmail across the country, the Chinese authorities have decided to shut down over 100+ WeChat accounts. WeChat is the largest standalone messaging app by the number of active users inside China and it was introduced by Tencent Holdings Ltd., one of the largest internet companies in the world, in the beginning of 2011.

As per the media reports, China’s internet regulator Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), recently shut down 133 WeChat accounts for spreading misleading information about the history and Communist Party of China. The regulator claimed that it received a tip-off following which the authorities launched an investigation and decided to close the accounts. The regulator also said that the banned accounts deliberately spread distorted information about the country and the ruling party by promising to reveal historical secrets. Justifying the ban, the authorities claimed that the accounts were against regulations, disobeyed the country’s core values and had the potential to disturb online order.

Among the WeChat accounts that were banned included an account whose name roughly translated to “This is not history”. Xinhua, the official press agency of People’s Republic of China, claimed that the said WeChat account spread fabricated information which had the potential of confusing the public. The account was highly critical of the country’s political policies plus it also published gossip and pranks related to celebrities and other well-known public figures. Some of the posts published by the account highlighted how patriotism was just a slogan for corrupt officials who did not think twice before sending their friends and family members to overseas trips on taxpayer’s money. Other posts were critical of the country’s state-owned firms and accused them of mismanagement and exploiting the Chinese public. After CAC banned the “This is not history” account, visitors trying to access the account’s page were greeted with the message that the account has been banned for violating the rules of the service. However, links from other sites to the account’s page were still active which suggested that the authorities are yet to delete the evidence of the existence of the page.

Other accounts that were banned included the account of a Shanghai based 37 year old man which had more than 300,000 subscribers and whose content was very similar to the above account. While admitting that he did publish posts critical of the officials and country’s policies from time to time, he said that most of his posts were related to celebrity gossip and women. He also added that he was not really surprised that his WeChat account was taken down since many of his friends had also lost their accounts in a similar fashion. When the whole matter came to light, Tencent declined to comment on the issue whereas CAC mentioned that it would continue to act on tip-offs received from the public.

February 24, 2015

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