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Chinese Authorities Crack Down On Mobile Messenger Apps

WeChat No Longer Safe For Potential Dissidents

The world of mobile messaging is booming as much in Asia as anywhere else, with industry leaders like WeChat and Line looking to expand their reach globally. Part of the appeal which these functions have is that under regimes which frequently ban public social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, messaging apps like WeChat offer a space where people can form groups and communicate while relatively hidden from the spotlight of government scrutiny.

China is looking to counteract this. The authoritarian government there brought out a raft of restrictions on mobile instant messaging services yesterday aimed at cracking down on their potential for helping to ferment dissent.

From now on, users will have to register on these services using their real name – destroying the anonymity which made these apps into such an attractive ground for open discussion of current events. In addition only approved public media agencies will be allowed to post political news, and the reposting of news from subversive or over-seas sources will be forbidden. All users will have to agree to a contract promising that they will ‘obey the law and respect the socialist system.’

There is no small amount of precedence in this area. In 2011 China’s State Internet Information Office launched a wide-scale takeover of the country’s weibo, or micro-blogging, scene. The number of micro-blogs controlled by municipal governments grew from 522 in 2010 to 176,800 last year, and these accounts have millions of followers. They have become the de facto source of information for many citizens, providing updates on everything from local news to weather, and have worked to give a more human face to a government which can often seem distant and unengaged with local issues.

As well as positioning themselves as the primary content originators for much of the daily discussion online in the country, Chinese authorities are also making it clear that any attempts to challenge this position will be dealt with severely. Last year a law came into effect stating that anyone making an online posting considered to be ‘damaging the national image’ or ‘causing adverse international effects’ which was viewed over 5000 times or forwarded over 500 times could be punished by up to three years in prison.

The move is a further signal of the ever-growing divide between Western and Eastern digital interests. While in Europe and America it is the threat of corporate intrusion into our private lives which concerns most online citizens, China’s overbearing government demonstrates that there are worse problems to have than the fear that our Magaluf holiday photos from 2008 may be press-ganged into the service of a WKD advert.

Bill Clinton said that trying to control the internet in China was ‘like trying to nail Jell-O to the wall.’ It seems as though the authorities there just found a bowl.


Douglas is an English Literature graduate who has written about everything from music to food to theatre, now a content creator for Social Media Frontiers. No topic too large or too small. Follow him @DouglasAtSMF.

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Chinese Authorities Crack Down On Mobile Messenger Apps Reviewed by Anonymous on Sunday, August 10, 2014 Rating: 5
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