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WeChat mascots are displayed inside a Tencent office at TIT Creativity Industry Zone in Guangzhou, China May 9, 2017. Photo: REUTERS/Bobby Yip

WeChat says it has closed thousands of official accounts as part of its ongoing effort to clean up content

  • WeChat’s ongoing clean-up efforts coincide with an industry-wide clampdown on content by Beijing

WeChat, China’s biggest social media network and messaging app with over one billion users, has closed thousands of official accounts as part of an ongoing drive to clean up content amid a crackdown by Beijing on online information deemed inappropriate or misleading.

Official WeChat accounts are platforms set up by content creators including corporate brands, media, government bodies and celebrities to broadcast directly to and interact with their followers. WeChat has over 20 million official accounts on its platform.

WeChat, which is operated by Chinese internet giant Tencent Holdings, said that 40,592 official accounts had been blocked or closed by 2019 for publishing pornography and violent or lowbrow content with misleading headlines. WeChat has also closed dozens of accounts for credit card fraud and has asked users to report illegal accounts, according to a report published by WeChat on Saturday.

“On the WeChat platform, lowbrow or harmful content, along with fraud, are all firmly rejected,” said WeChat in the report. “WeChat will work further to check, block and close irregular accounts.”

WeChat’s ongoing clean-up efforts coincide with an industry-wide clampdown on content by Beijing, as part of China’s overall efforts to create a more positive and healthy online environment. The crackdown has meant rising costs for social media operators who have had to police their own content more closely, often with teams of moderators. Tencent’s social media rival Bytedance removed its popular news app Jinri Toutiao from Chinese app stores for three weeks last year pending a clean-up.

In a world where false and misleading information can reach billions instantly and online manipulation is becoming ever more sophisticated, governments across the globe are increasingly turning to legislation to combat fake news, putting pressure on social media platforms such as WeChat and Facebook to monitor posts by their users more rigorously.

Facebook said last year it had removed 1.5 billion fake accounts in the six months to November as part of its own crackdown on misinformation and spam. Twitter also culled what it said were millions of “problematic” accounts last July.

Meanwhile, China’s “social media queen” Mimeng closed her widely read WeChat public account last Thursday after a public outcry over a fake news item. Mimeng ran one of China’s most popular social media platforms and had amassed a fan base of 13 million WeChat followers and 2.6 million Weibo followers.

WeChat is also working with hundreds of third-party organisations in an effort to block postings and quash “rumours” as part of its overall effort to safeguard cybersecurity, according to a report released last year.

The Cyberspace Administration of China said last November that tighter management of internet content producers would be the “new norm”. The authority has summoned 10 content platform operators, including Tencent, to conduct self clean-ups of content.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: WeChat closes 40,592 ‘improper’ accounts