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WeChat ‘monitors international users’ text messages to preemptively identify content to censor for its Chinese users’

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Daily Mail
May 11, 2020

WeChat is monitoring messages sent by international users to help identify content that might need to be preemptively censored in China.

The popular text messaging app keeps a database of censored or potentially inflammatory content that it uses to automatically filter messages for Chinese account holders.

The company keeps this database up-to-date by scanning messages sent between account holders outside of China to preemptively tag new images or other content that might be considered inflammatory by the Chinese government.

The system was documented in recent tests conducted by The Citizens Lab, a Canadian public policy institute at the University of Toronto.

‘I would urge international users to consider that, as you use this platform, you’re actually helping to strengthen digital repression in China,’ Citizens Lab director Ron Deibert told the South China Morning Post.

Past reporting has shown that WeChat maintains an active blacklist of around 500 keyword combinations that will automatically be blocked in messages with Chinese account holders.

For example, a message that mentions Dr. Li Wenliang, an ophthalmologist at Wuhan Central Hospital credited as the COVID-19 whistleblower, will likely be blocked if the intended recipient is a Chinese account holder.

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This article was posted: Monday, May 11, 2020 at 3:52 am

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