News / Asia

China to Restrict Instant Messaging Tools

FILE - China has imposed new restrictions on users of popular microblog sites such as Sina Corp.’s Weibo.
FILE - China has imposed new restrictions on users of popular microblog sites such as Sina Corp.’s Weibo.
Reuters

China will force users of instant messaging tools to register their real names and will require those who want to publish or reprint political news on public accounts to seek prior approval, state media said on Thursday.

Last year, China launched a campaign to clamp down on online rumor mongering and “clean up” the Internet. The crackdown has led to an exodus of users from Twitter-like microblog platforms such as Weibo Corp.'s Weibo after authorities detained hundreds of outspoken users.

The latest restrictions likely will affect hugely popular mobile messaging apps such as Tencent Holdings Ltd.'s WeChat, which has almost 400 million users. Other instant messaging tools include Tencent's QQ, Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.'s Laiwang app, NetEase Inc.'s Yixin and Xiaomi Inc.'s Miliao.

Accounts that haven't been approved by the instant messaging service provider are forbidden to publish or reprint political news, the official Xinhua news agency said. It added that service providers must verify and publicly mark accounts that can publish or reprint political news.

Users must also sign an agreement with the service provider when they register, promising “to comply with the law, the socialist system, the national interest, citizens' legal rights, public order, social moral customs, and authenticity of information,” Xinhua said.

A chilling effect

These new regulations could have a similar effect to the one seen on Weibo last year.

The rules “could cool down the traffic of WeChat public accounts and discourage journalists from setting up individual WeChat public accounts,” said Fu King-wa, an assistant professor at the University of Hong Kong's Journalism and Media Studies Center.

Tencent said it would work within the new regulations.

“We will take measures against offensive and abusive activities to ensure compliance with relevant regulations,” a spokeswoman said in an emailed statement.

Alibaba declined to comment. Xiaomi declined to provide immediate comment by telephone, while NetEase was not available for immediate comment by phone.

Official scrutiny

As apps such as WeChat have grown in popularity, they have increasingly come under the ruling Communist Party's gaze.

“WeChat, and social media, are now truly mass media and regulated as such,” said Duncan Clark, chairman of Beijing-based tech advisory BDA. “There are challenges, of course, in regulating [WeChat], but the Party will never loosen up.”

On Thursday, South Korea said Chinese authorities had blocked messaging apps KakaoTalk, operated by South Korean Kakao Talk, and Line, a Japanese-based subsidiary of South Korea's Naver Corp., as part of efforts to fight terrorism, the first official explanation of service disruptions in China that began a month ago.

Other services such as online video streaming sites run by Youku Tudou Inc., Sohu.com Inc., Baidu Inc. and Tencent also have been targeted by censors in recent months.

Tencent shares were down 3.5 percent in Hong Kong trading on Thursday, versus a 0.8 percent drop in the Hang Seng Index.

You May Like

Turbulent Transition Imperils Tunisia’s Arab Spring Gains

Critics say new anti-terrorism laws worsen Tunisia's situation while others put faith in country’s vibrant civil organizations, women’s movement More

Burundi’s Political Crisis May Become Humanitarian One

United Nations aid agencies issue warning as deadly violence sends tens of thousands fleeing More

Yemenis Adjust to Life Under Houthi Rule

Locals want warring parties to strike deal to stop bloodletting before deciding how country is governed More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fairi
X
Brian Padden
May 29, 2015 1:27 PM
With inter-Korean relations deteriorating over the North’s nuclear program, past military provocations and human rights abuses, many Koreans still hold out hope for eventual peaceful re-unification. VOA’s Brian Padden visited a “unification fair” held this week in Seoul, where border communities promoted the benefits of increased cooperation.
Video

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

With inter-Korean relations deteriorating over the North’s nuclear program, past military provocations and human rights abuses, many Koreans still hold out hope for eventual peaceful re-unification. VOA’s Brian Padden visited a “unification fair” held this week in Seoul, where border communities promoted the benefits of increased cooperation.
Video

Video Purple Door Coffeeshop: Changing Lives One Cup at a Time

For a quarter of his life, Kevin Persons lived on the street. Today, he is working behind the counter of an espresso bar, serving coffee and working to transition off the streets and into a home. Paul Vargas reports for VOA.
Video

Video Modular Robot Getting Closer to Reality

A robot being developed at Carnegie Mellon University has evolved into a multi-legged modular mechanical snake, able to move over rugged surfaces and explore the surroundings. Scientists say such machines could someday help in search and rescue operations. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Shanghai Hosts Big Consumer Electronics Show

Electronic gadgets are a huge success in China, judging by the first Asian Consumer Electronics Show, held this week in Shanghai. Over the course of two days, more than 20,000 visitors watched, tested and played with useful and some less-useful electronic devices exhibited by about 200 manufacturers. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.

VOA Blogs