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We found a greater number of keywords blocked on group chat compared to one-to-one chat, which suggests that communications on group chat are specifically targeted, potentially because group chats can reach a larger number of users.
In both chat modes, users are no longer presented with a warning message when they enter blocked keywords, as indicated by previous reports.
very site that is uniquely blocked on China accounts is fully accessible on International accounts, meaning that international users can successfully access the same URLs with We Chat’s internal browser.
Filtering remains enabled even if users later link their account with a non-mainland China number, which means that users with accounts registered to mainland China will remain under censorship regardless if they travel or unlink their Chinese phone number from the account.Despite these concerns, there is limited technical research into the operation and scale of content monitoring and filtering.In this report, we provide the first systematic analysis of keyword censorship and URL filtering on We Chat to determine how the app filters content and the type of content that is blocked.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.We Chat, (Weixin 微信 in Chinese), is the dominant chat application in China and fourth largest in the world, with 806 million monthly active users.We Chat encompasses more than just text, voice, and video chat; it includes a rich set of features such as gaming, mobile payments, and ride hailing, which make it more of a lifestyle platform than a mere chat app.It is estimated that Chinese users spend a third of their mobile online time on We Chat and typically return to the app ten times a day or more.We Chat is owned and operated by Tencent, one of China’s largest technology companies.However, the impact of these efforts has been questionable.Tencent has never disclosed how many active users it has outside of China, but We Chat has yet to make the same impact in other countries as it has in its home market.