Last year, China launched a campaign to clamp down on on-line rumour mongering and “clean up” the internet. The crackdown has led to an exodus of users from microblog platforms such as Weibo after authorities detained hundreds of outspoken users.
The latest restrictions will affect hugely popular mobile messaging apps such as Tencent’s WeChat, which has almost 400 million users. Other instant messaging tools include Tencent’s QQ, Laiwang app, Yixin and Miliao.
The official Xinhua news agency said, “Accounts that haven’t been approved by the instant messaging service provider are forbidden to publish or reprint political news. Service providers must verify and publicly mark accounts that can publish or reprint political news.”
Public account users must also sign an agreement with the service provider when they register, promising “to comply with the law, the socialist system, the national interest, citizens’ legal rights, public order, social moral customs, and authenticity of information,” Xinhua said.
These new regulations could have a similar effect to the one seen on Weibo last year. “The new rules could cool down the traffic of WeChat public accounts and discourage journalists from setting up individual WeChat public accounts,” said Fu King-wa, an assistant professor at the University of Hong Kong.
Tencent said it would work within the new regulations which it stressed would only apply to public accounts and not to everyday users. “We will take measures against offensive and abusive activities to ensure compliance with relevant regulations,” a spokeswoman said in an e-mailed statement to Reuters. The other companies could not be reached or declined to comment.
On Thursday, South Korea said Chinese authorities had blocked messaging apps KakaoTalk and Line in an effort to fight terrorism, but the disruptions to the network already started a month ago. Other services such as on-line video streaming sites have also been targeted by censors in recent months.
I had barely finished this article and about to publish it as more news ticked in. Chinese authorities have detained someone for the first time for spreading panic on mobile messaging app WeChat. Just hours are the new rules were imposed.
The man was taken into custody after writing on WeChat that three people carrying explosives had been shot dead by the police outside a hospital in the eastern province of Juangsu. A report said the police had investigated the claim and found it to be untrue, it’s intention was to gain attention and boost his on-line business as an e-commerce merchant.
It is not clear what sanctions he might face from the Chinese authorities, but we can assume it will be more then a slap on the wrist. Up until now, Instant-Messaging apps had been considered pretty safe compared to microblog sites like twitter. This view has already changed.
Thank you Reuters for providing us with this information.
Image courtesy of TechAttitude.