China Cracks Down on Instant Messaging Platforms

Instant messaging, a form of social media, allows users to share articles, texts, photos, and other data with friends, relatives, and even new acquaintances. Chinese app companies such as WeChat, Tencent’s QQ, NetEase’s Yixin, and others have become the target of a huge crackdown in political news sharing by the Chinese government.

Today, the Chinese media issued a statement about users of instant messaging platforms, requiring users to now provide their real names when logging on to an instant messaging platform, and those who want to publish political news will now have to seek prior approval. Now, when a user signs up for instant messaging of any kind in the country, they will have to “comply with the law, the socialist system, the national interest, citizens’ legal rights, public order, social moral customs, and authenticity of information,” the Xinhua news agency reported.

“A few people are using the platforms to disseminate information related to terrorism, violence and pornography as well as slander and rumors. Such behaviors have raised bitter feelings among netizens,” said SIIO spokesman Jiang Jun.

For the SIIO, true freedom of speech comes when instant messaging users are not damaging or harming the reputation of others: “Some people are damaging other people’s rights and interests and public security in the name of freedom of speech. The regulation will promote the quality of instant messaging services to ensure that citizens enjoy the convenience of such services. This is the true freedom of speech,” said SIIO Mobile Internet Management Head Xu Feng.

The country has 5.8 million public instant messaging accounts, and will seek to get these users registered with their real names on instant messaging platforms. For now, however, users who are not registered with their real names will have limited access to services on their favorite instant messaging platforms. New users will be required to enter the information at sign-up. Those who are found guilty of damaging and harming the reputations of either the state or other individuals will receive harsh warnings, have limited use of their favorite instant messaging platforms, or will have their accounts disabled (based on the extent of troublesome behavior).

China is now enacting these measures, while American search engine giant Google is relaxing its measures on authentic names at Google+. Google announced recently that it is relaxing measures on genuine names at Google+. The company is also removing its photos app from within Google+ in an effort to encourage more users to rely on its unlimited photo cloud storage.