Tencent to clean up its WeChat service amid crackdown rumours

Company says it will target accounts that engage in fraud, porn or 'spreading rumours'

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 06 August, 2014, 2:18pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 21 April, 2015, 11:12am

Tencent will begin a fresh crackdown on fraud, pornography and "spreading rumours" on its hugely popular WeChat messaging application.

The mainland technology giant would target the approximately 5.8 million public accounts on the service, it said on its own WeChat account.

The statement came amid widespread speculation among mobile social-media users that a new crackdown by government censors could be looming.

The internet on the mainland is under intense censorship because of government fears it could pose a threat to the Communist Party's dominance.

Tencent said that about 80 suspects belonging to some 10 gangs involved in "illegal activities" had been caught by the authorities since April, when a campaign to clean up the internet was launched on the mainland. The cases involved about 25 million yuan (HK$31.5 million).

More than 100 public accounts had been removed in the first half of the year, it said, adding that three accounts had been suspended for selling counterfeit products.

During the April campaign, Tencent had deployed more than 200 people to examine complaints, it said.

Public WeChat accounts are typically used by individuals or companies to broadcast to subscribers. They have become a major source of news for mainland users but have drawn the attention of the censors.

WeChat had 396 million active users worldwide, Tencent said in its first-quarter earnings report released in May.

Meanwhile, a city in Guangdong recently announced that WeChat public accounts held by individuals or organisations must be registered with the police within a month.

The Zhaoqing government's move - believed to be the first of its kind by any local government - would help tighten control over the spread of rumours and illegal information on WeChat, said a joint statement by the city's public security, publicity, publishing, and industry and commerce bureaus.

Existing public accounts held by individuals and organisations need to be registered with the police within 30 days of the release of the statement, which appeared on the city's government website on July 29.

All future accounts must also be registered with police within 30 days of being set up.

WeChat users will be forbidden from including content from any independent news reports or sharing information carried by overseas media, the statement said.