Users cannot determine whether their content has been monitored and, if so, why.
WeChat chat accounts registered outside of China are subject to the same level of control as Chinese accounts and are used to strengthen censorship.
Like any other Internet platform in China, WeChat follows the rules and regulations of the Chinese authorities regarding prohibited content. But according to a team of researchers from Citizen Lab, these rules and regulations now apply to accounts registered outside the country.
“WeChat introduces censorship for users with accounts registered to Chinese phone numbers. Censorship is carried out without notifying users and is constantly updated, often in response to current events, ”the experts explained.
Citizen Lab conducted an experiment to verify the monitoring of documents and image files for three separate days in 2019: November 27, December 2, and December 6. For each test, they sent confidential documents or images that had never been transmitted through the platform before.
On each day of testing, if a confidential document was first transferred between accounts not registered in China, then it was censored in real time before being sent to an account registered in China. Of the 60 images sent in three days, 49 were censored in real time.
Researchers also conducted a “hash test” by sending a new, confidential document from a group chat outside of China to a Chinese group chat, and then immediately return it. In all five tests, the revoked document was not received by an account registered in China.
A Tencent representative commented on this situation and said that all content distributed on the platform by international users is confidential.