China to crack down on mobile instant messaging apps
China is starting a month-long crack down on illegal content circulating through local instant messaging services.
The latest crackdown, announced Tuesday, comes after a terrorist attack in China’s Xinjiang region killed 43 people. Police later arrested over 200 suspected militants, who had been chatting over local instant messaging services to organize their activities, according to the nation’s state-controlled press.
Among the messaging services used were WeChat and QQ, two of the most popular in the nation and developed by local Internet giant Tencent.
China is targeting rumors, terrorism, and porn-related information as part of the operation. Specifically, authorities want to regulate the way the mobile instant messaging apps can spread information to the public.
“Some people are using these platforms to disseminate unhealthy or illegal and harmful information to the public,” China’s Xinhua News Agency said. In total, mobile instant messaging services in China have over 800 million users, the agency added.
Tencent did not immediately comment. Its WeChat app has 355 million monthly active users, most of which are in China.
The company has already been tightening restrictions around WeChat “public accounts”, which any user can subscribe to. In March, Tencent shut down certain public accounts known for political writings, claiming that they had violated company policies.
Users, however, complained that the accounts had done nothing wrong, and some of the public accounts were later restored. But China’s scrutiny over WeChat is not expected to stop. In November, the government named the product as among the social networking apps that could destabilize the nation if not properly controlled.