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  1. #1
    Mid is offline
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    China : WeChat - Censoring Across Borders

    WeChat: Censoring Across Borders
    Josh Rudolph
    January 11, 2013

    Yesterday, TechInAsia reported that Chinese Internet giant Tencent’s massively popular messaging app WeChat has begun applying censorship policy to users residing outside of China:
    Right now, the Chinese name of the outspoken magazine caught up in a tense struggle of willswith the government – Southern Weekend in English, 南方周末 (nan fang zhou mo) in Chinese – is censored in Chinese on WeChat. But it’s not just restricted to users in China (where the app is called Weixin), and typing that name in the Chinese language is now blocked globally. The restriction notice says (pictured):
    The message “南方周末” you sent contains restricted words. Please check it again.
    We’ve tested it out going from users in China to Thailand (blocked), Thailand to China (blocked), and even Thailand to Singapore (blocked); the prohibited words are not sent at all. The name of the magazine can be sent in English.
    TechInAsia contacted Tencent for a comment, and a newer post quotes the company writing off the restricted characters as a “technical glitch”. The post goes on to offer “incriminating evidence” that the restrictions were more deliberate:
    Referring to the case as a “glitch”, the full statement given to us reads:
    A small number of WeChat international users were not able to send certain messages due to a technical glitch this Thursday. Immediate actions have been taken to rectify it. We apologize for any inconvenience it has caused to our users. We will continue to improve the product features and technological support to provide better user experience.
    Indeed, testing out the offending phrase today, it does now work within WeChat.

    [...]But what about that warning that many saw? It’s as clear as day in many screenshots. “The message “南方周末” you sent contains restricted words. Please check it again.”

    Yes: Restricted words. That’s no error message. It’s very far from being: Ooops, our servers are a bit busy right now, please try again a few minutes later.[...]
    TechInAsia has previously reported on Tencent’s (largely successful) efforts to go global with their popular new product. A post from describes the new opportunities to globalize offered by the mobile market, and suggests that internationalizing the self-censorship required for a media company to sustain in China would impede Tencent’s quest for global presence:
    In the past, Chinese social networks have only had to worry about censorship in regards to users inside the country – because, proportionately speaking, so few users of China’s Internet properties access the sites from overseas – but WeChat, which has the potential to be more international, presents a new challenge.

    The advent of the mobile age has opened up the possibility for China to compete on a global stage and develop Internet products in parallel with the rest of the world. In particular, many entrepreneurs, investors, and businesses within China consider themselves to have an advantage over their Western counterparts when it comes to expanding into developing countries, such as India, Brazil, and those in Southeast Asia.
    [...]Until now, WeChat has been allowed to spread beyond China without having to deal with a big censorship blowup. Now it’s being put to the ultimate test. For users in China, it’s business as usual. For everyone else, it’s time to reassess.
    For more on Tencent and WeChat, see “WeChat, a Threat to All?” Also see CDT’s ongoing coverage of censorship, strike and lingering concern surrounding the notoriously candid Southern Weekly (also known as Southern Weekend) – the newspaper whose name was reportedly restricted for international WeChat users.

  2. #2
    disturbance in the Turnip baldrick's Avatar
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    Today @ 06:09 PM
    tencent has always been a stooge of the chinese government

    their QQ messaging client is popular in a few countries outside china - users are easily tempted by cute smilies.

    the internet has been a boon for countries monitoring their citizens - watch the cat video ROFLMAO

  3. #3
    Mid is offline
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    Netizens Slam Tencent Over Ban
    Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin service, and by Wen Yuqing for the Cantonese service.
    Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.

    A Chinese social media site closes chat rooms and blocks users' accounts.

    Visitors at the Tencent stand during the Mobile Asia Expo 2012 in Shanghai, June 21, 2012.

    Chinese users of social media sites provided by Internet giant Tencent have penned an open letter slamming the company for closing down discussion rooms, blocking users' accounts, and preventing them from posting articles, a rights group said on Friday.

    The letter, signed by 13 users of Tencent and its chatroom service QQ, hit out at the company for pre-empting government controls on online expression and depriving users of services, some of them paid.

    "When it comes to topics related to politics, people's livelihood, corruption, and other social problems, the cute little penguins turn into crazed wolves, closing down chat groups, freezing QQ accounts ... and [arranging] temporary outages ... in wanton violation of our rights and interests," the letter said, in a reference to QQ's penguin logo.

    "Since the birth of Tencent QQ, we have been loyal users ... and users help to make Tencent ... plenty of money," the letter said, threatening the company with a lawsuit filed by 1,001 users.

    "Tencent should give back a better service in return to the community," said the letter, which was dated Jan. 16 and published online by the Hubei-based Civil Rights and Livelihood Watch website late on Thursday.

    It said in-house censors at QQ had accused groups trying to discuss anti-corruption efforts of spamming with "mass quantities of politically sensitive material," and had closed online chatroom discussion groups, including paid groups, without giving any reason at all.

    "Tencent, we are warning you, call off your spies and unfreeze all illegally frozen accounts and user groups, and provide a reasonable explanation, an apology and compensation for loss [of data]," the letter said.

    "If you can not meet the above demands ... we will take legal measures," it said, threatening the company with class action suits in China and in neighboring Hong Kong, where Tencent is listed on the stock market.

    Functions blocked

    Guangzhou-based rights lawyer Tang Jingling, whose name headed the list of signatories, said that the group is sick of Tencent's behavior, and that it has been repeatedly denied use of some of QQ's functions.

    "Some people are able to run chat rooms of 100, 200, or even 500 people," Tang said. "There is also the ability to share photo files and longer articles, but they have illegally prevented us from using these features."

    "They are stopping us from making full use of the service, and they are limiting netizens' freedom of expression," he added.

    Guangxi-based activist Zhang Wei said that the group of users interested in discussing such topics have managed in the past by frequent switching between multiple user accounts, but that Tencent's actions have intensified in recent weeks.

    "Recently it has been crazy. Within a day of applying for a new account, it gets shut down," Zhang said. "A lot of people are actually in fee-paying groups."

    He added that Tencent's customer service helpline is very hard to get through to.

    Repeated attempts on Friday to contact Tencent's customer service line resulted in a recorded message, but no employee answered the phone.

    'Unreliable connection'

    Jiangxi-based activist Liu Ping, who has previously tried to run as an independent candidate in local legislature elections, said her discussion space was shut down by Tencent two years ago.

    Meanwhile, her microblog account was closed last November while she was held in detention for 20 days during the 18th national congress of the ruling Chinese Communist Party.

    Liu said that whenever she tries to use QQ to send out pictures considered "sensitive" by the authorities, her home computer begins to function abnormally.

    "My Internet connection becomes unreliable," she said. "I guess they are blocking my IP address or something like that."

    Zhang said the letter-writers are particularly angry over the arbitrary nature of the closures and restrictions.

    "It seems that they just shut it down if they feel like it," he said, adding that a hard copy of the letter had been posted to Tencent founder "Pony" Ma Huateng at the company's Shenzhen headquarters on Thursday.

    There is little sign that the Communist Party's new leadership, headed by president-in-waiting Xi Jinping, will relax tight controls on domestic media or on what netizens can see and say online.

    Earlier this month, journalists at the cutting-edge Guangzhou-based newspaper Southern Weekend announced a strike over political censorship, sparking protests outside the paper's headquarters.

    Many of those who spoke out online against censorship were detained and questioned by China's state security police, and some have yet to be released, activists said.

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