We Chat offers a microblogging feature called “Public Accounts” that allows certain users to publish daily posts.
On March 13, 2014, Tencent shut down nearly 40 Public Accounts without giving any prior notice.
Some commentators speculate that We Chat has not enjoyed the same success internationally because outside of China the application does not have the same rich set of features, such as mobile payments and taxi hailing, that make it a compelling platform for users within China.
Market growth outside of China has also been hampered by incidents that remind international users of the restrictions We Chat faces at home.
Beyond the Chinese market, We Chat has made considerable efforts to grow its user base internationally.
Tencent launched advertising campaigns targeting foreign markets, recruiting football star Lionel Messi and Bollywood actors to endorse the app.
Despite these concerns, there is limited technical research into the operation and scale of content monitoring and filtering.
If the message includes a keyword that has been targeted for blocking, the message will not be sent.
Popular Public Accounts that discuss current affairs and politics, such as the Consensus Website (共识网), Truth Channel (真话频道), Luo Changping (罗昌平), and Elephant Magazine (大象工会), were shut down overnight.
Tencent issued a statement explaining that it “strictly prohibits publishing pornographic, vulgar, violent, bloody, political rumors and any illegal content.” The company said the action was “part of the commitment to providing quality user experience on Weixin in China,” and that it would “continually review and take measures” on suspicious content.
Operating a chat application in China requires following laws and regulations on content control and monitoring.
Accordingly, the popularity of We Chat has also been met with suspicions of surveillance and media reports of censorship.
Companies are expected to invest in staff and filtering technologies to moderate content and stay in compliance with government regulations.