WeChat has blocked 500 million postings in fight against fake news
In a world where false and misleading information can reach billions instantly and online manipulation is becoming ever more sophisticated, governments are increasingly turning to legislation to combat fake news, putting pressure on social media platforms around the world to monitor posts by their users more rigorously.
WeChat, China’s biggest social media network with around one billion users, has so far blocked about 500 million postings in its fight against fake news, according to a report by a government body.
Apart from blocking the posts directly, Tencent’s WeChat is 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 on Friday by the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology, an institute run by the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.
WeChat has built a mini-programme into its social messaging application dedicated to refuting “rumours”, including postings on topics such as the disappearance of Malaysia Airline Flight 370 in 2014 and various other topics, such as “cures” for cancer. By the end of 2017, the programme has quashed “rumours” for over 19.7 million users and around 37 million alerts were sent out.
In a world where false and misleading information can reach billions instantly and online manipulation is becoming ever more sophisticated, governments are increasingly turning to legislation to combat fake news, putting pressure on social media platforms around the world to monitor posts by their users more rigorously. That has led companies like Facebook and Jinri Toutiao to step up the hiring of human moderators to sieve through online content.
The government report said that WeChat needs to do more to improve its data protection policies, citing a survey in which 53 per cent of respondents believed WeChat’s operations presented a risk of data leaks, with only a mediocre level of protection of personal data and privacy.
WeChat has received public criticism of its data privacy capabilities in the past. WeChat reiterated earlier this week that its app does not store the chat histories of users or use it for big data analysis after an anti-graft agency in eastern China’s Anhui province restored the deleted chat history of an individual it was investigating. WeChat said it did not store any user chat histories in January this year after Li Shufu, chairman of Chinese carmaker Geely, reportedly slammed the company for invading user privacy.
The government report also mentioned WeChat’s efforts to work with police against cyber fraud and criminal activity, with WeChat cited as assisting in over 3,800 arrests related to illegally obtaining personal information.