WeChat: Censoring Coronavirus?
WeChat is a messenger platform available for iOS and Android. It is owned by Tencent, a Chinese multinational company. There have been reports that WeChat censors posts related to coronavirus and has been doing this from the month of January. Let’s find out all about it
WeChat | The Chinese Messenger
WeChat is the most popular messaging app used in China. In addition, it provides a platform for messaging as well as for payment and is accepted everywhere in China. The restriction posed by the Chinese government on many apps such as YouTube and other messengers has led the people into using WeChat. Therefore, many Chinese people are attracted to apps created by the Chinese themselves.
WeChat is the third most used messenger app that has almost 900 million users daily. Undoubtedly, the app is not only popular in the Chinese border, but also among the Chinese living around the world. Moreover, there are about 100 million users of WeChat outside China that use the app on a regular basis.
WeChat is very well designed and free to use. You can upload your images, post “stories” similar to that on Instagram, do high-quality video calls, scan a QR code and a lot more. Furthermore, you are even offered “WeChat Gaming” where the user can play games. You can even recharge your phone through the app itself which gives it a huge bonus above other apps
Spreading of Misinformation
WeChat messenger – owned by the company Tencent – has been allowing people to track the virus in the country. Anyone could pass information or hoaxes related to coronavirus in the messenger app.
It is said that in late December, doctors in Wuhan had used WeChat to share information among ordinary people that caused the police to arrest eight doctors that were allegedly “spreading rumors”. According to the report, they were sharing news related to the virus. Dr. Li Wenliang was one of the doctors who got arrested.
Unfortunately, Dr. Li contacted the disease while treating patients in February and passed away
The reaction to Dr. Li’s death was huge on platforms like WeChat and even caused protests among people.
Blocking of Keywords
Research Group Citizen Lab from Toronto conducted various experiments regarding this subject. They created multiple accounts on WeChat and found that the company blocked keywords that were related to coronavirus and the Chinese president.
China has always been controlling on what its people read or post online and this has always been there for years. But these reports state that the posts related to this subject were censored even before the outbreak really happened.
WeChat has censored 381 keywords related to the coronavirus matter as per the report stated by Citizen Lab. All of these keywords include the Chinese President, news or information related to the epidemic.
According to the reports, if a person using WeChat starts to send or use messages from the blacklisted accounts on the WeChat Server, the message simply doesn’t show up. Most importantly, it is very surprising the news regarding the coronavirus has spread so much considering the Chinese Government.
It is unclear why the company has censored keywords related to coronavirus. For Instance, it is possible that the company was forced to comply with the Chinese government rules. Employees or the company itself has not released an official statement regarding the censorship
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It is not common in China to remove the content posted online that can be a threat to the communist party. In addition, search engines like Google and YouTube are banned so that the government can keep a watch on people who use the search engines provided by the government itself.
WeChat censors have definitely censored messages and keywords related to coronavirus and have even increased the keywords from 151 in January to 381 keywords in present and counting.
Censoring the information about Coronavirus really puts it to a question whether this epidemic is as controlled as stated by the government or even that is a washed down story for people to avoid mass panic
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