China cracks down on WeChat messaging accounts for violating regulations

(Photo: Flickr / Sinchen.Lin)Chinese HTC phone owner using WeChat.

According to the South China Morning Post, and echoed by PC Magazine, many users were blocked from the WeChat messaging social network on Thursday for posting current affairs commentary, which is a huge no-no in China, a country known for its heavy censorship. These accounts received a message that they have been shuttered for violating regulations.

The well-known public messaging platform lets users send voice, text messages, photo and video. Users can likewise take part in group chats through Android, iOS, Windows Phone, Black Berry and Symbian platforms. WeChat is owned by Tencent, an Internet platform based in China.

(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

WeChat is also available in the U.S. but has gained most acclaims in Asia, where several columnists and media outlets boasts thousands of subscribers and oftentimes discuss political issues.

China's history of restricting its citizens from Internet access has been long. It has a tight group on networks such as Sina Weibo, and that motivated other users to transfer to other services like WeChat. China Information Centre said 37 percent of those who left Weibo in 2013 began to use WeChat.

It did not take long for the Chinese government to crack down on the service. The China Digital Times published the almost 40 "partial" list of closed accounts as of Thursday. Some of them are "self-media" outlets such as the Observer, Phoenix We Media, Elephant Magazine, Cloud Thinking and China50Plus.

PCMag requested comments from WeChat but yet without response.

Meanwhile, Google this week announced an extended routine encryption of Web searches by users in China. It is part of a privacy technology in a worldwide expansion to prevent surveillance by government intelligence, hackers and police; thus, it is not targeted for China alone, which otherwise has a reputation of censoring its citizens' internet and online activities.

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