Government urged to protect WeChat overseas

Updated 2017-07-14 09:21:46 Global Times

Indian media says messaging app used to spread propaganda, smut

The government should use legal and diplomatic methods to counter wild accusations made by India against popular social media platforms such as WeChat, experts said after the software was criticized for its operations in India and Bhutan.

The Times of India reported Wednesday that WeChat, China's popular instant messaging app, has been used "as a channel to disseminate propaganda."

The report also accused WeChat of "spreading pornography and financial manipulation." It added that WeChat also poses a threat in Bhutan, where at least one-third of adults reportedly use the software.

WeChat did not comment on the claim when reached by the Global Times on Thursday.

WeChat had attracted 938 million users by the end of 2016, mostly in China, according to a report released by WeChat's provider, Tencent, adding that more than 90 percent of them use WeChat on a daily basis.

Though the company did not give the number of overseas users, a report from 36kr.com in 2014 put the number at 200 million, citing bank analysts.

"I prefer WeChat over WhatsApp when I returned to Italy because I can use the app's funny stickers and wallet, and posting on WeChat is more convenient and straightforward than posting on WhatsApp," said Jacopo, one of the foreign users of WeChat reached by the Global Times on Thursday.

The Indian media added that "Chinese government censorship is interfering in WeChat accounts in foreign countries, citing a study from the University of Toronto's Citizen Lab.

However, Wang Sixin, a law professor at the Communication University of China, said that such accusations, though groundless, are quite frequent, as some foreign countries use the accusations in the hope of stopping its fast development.

Wang said that foreign countries always make groundless accusations so people will be afraid of using the application. "But their claim that the Chinese government is interfering with WeChat lacks solid evidence," Wang noted.

He added that these reports show that Chinese social media platforms continue to face challenges and difficulties overseas.

In May, WeChat was blocked in Russia, after Russian telecom watchdog Roskomnadzor listed WeChat among prohibited websites, Russia's news agency TASS reported.

The government should help Chinese social media platforms go overseas because "they're a source of Chinese soft power in the digital era," said Hu Xingdou, a professor at the Beijing Institute of Technology.

The Chinese government should step up and use legal and diplomatic methods to protect Chinese social media platforms when they are unfairly treated in foreign countries, Hu added.

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