American WeChat Users Getting Banned For Celebrating Hong Kong Election Results
from the reach-out-and-boot-someone dept
The recent election in Hong Kong may have scored some wins for pro-democracy candidates, but supporters of protesters and newly-elected candidates still aren’t able to do much celebrating on social media. WeChat, the massively popular messaging app owned by China’s Tencent, is apparently censoring posts and shutting down pro-democracy accounts.
That a Chinese company would censor pro-democracy messages is unsurprising. What’s a bit more unexpected is Tencent’s apparent willingness to shut down accounts owned by users in other countries, as Zoe Schiffer reports for The Verge.
Bin Xie, an information security analyst at Texas Children’s Hospital, wrote “The pro-China candidates totally lost” in a WeChat group before having his account shut down.
Xie is now part of a WhatsApp group for Chinese Americans who’ve recently been censored on WeChat. He joined the group to talk about what is happening and discuss what can be done to make it stop. “If you have censorship in China — fine,” he told The Verge. “But in this country? I’m a Republican but on WeChat I suffer the same as Democrats [using WeChat]— we are all censored.”
It’s unclear how far this has spread. Tencent claims it does not censor users from other countries on WeChat. The home version — Weixin — is more heavily-monitored as it is mainly used by Chinese citizens. WeChat, on the other hand, has servers located outside of China that aren’t subject to Chinese law, at least theoretically.
But it’s happening anyway. Maybe it’s just a glitch. Or maybe Tencent would just like everyone to believe it’s just a glitch. Tencent’s statement points fingers at the rest of the world and the hundreds of laws governing content removal.
In a statement emailed to The Verge, a Tencent spokesperson said, “Tencent operates in a complex regulatory environment, both in China and elsewhere. Like any global company, a core tenant is that we comply with local laws and regulations in the markets where we operate.”
Considering the Chinese government’s ability to pressure US corporations into apologies and scattershot proxy censorship, it’s not that difficult to picture it leaning heavily on Tencent to ignore the “complex regulatory environments” erected by other countries and just do what makes the Chinese government happy — even if that results in the censorship of citizens of other countries.