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China's WeChat Monitors Foreign Users to Refine Censorship at Home

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A market in Singapore that accepts WeChatPay.

WeChat is subjecting its international users to surveillance to bolster the censorship machinery it employs to control users inside China.

Credit: Edgar Su/Reuters

A study by the University of Toronto's Citizen Lab in Canada warns that China's multipurpose WeChat application is monitoring foreign users to strengthen government censorship.

Although Chinese government censorship of foreign users is not as draconian as it is for Chinese users, images and documents sent through WeChat are still vetted for objectionable content, which the app adds to an internal blacklist to be censored for Chinese users in real time.

By first applying content analysis to international users, WeChat can boost the efficiency of domestic censorship, although Citizen Lab said technical considerations rather than government directives could be the underlying reason.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation's Eva Galperin thinks the study should give potential WeChat users pause. Said Galperin, "If I ... was running the security of a large corporation that was concerned about corporate spying from China, I might err on the side of caution."

From The Wall Street Journal
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Abstracts Copyright © 2020 SmithBucklin, Washington, DC, USA


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