Since January 1st, a report found, China’s most common messenger app, Tencent-owned WeChat, has been deleting keywords about coronavirus. Common livestreaming site in China YY has also been trying to censor content on coronavirus.
The group of researchers Citizen Lab scripted group chat interactions to make this decision, and used them in three WeChat accounts, two in Canada and one in China.
The conversations in the chat consisted of headlines and text for post. The community, which is associated with Toronto University, sent them to the Chinese by one of the Canadian WeChat profiles, and examined which messages the Chinese account got. In January 138 keyword variants were censored but by the last week of February this number increased to 520 keywords.
384 NEW CENSORED KEYWORDS WERE ADDED IN TWO WEEKS IN FEBRUARY
Chinese public health officials first told the World Health Organization in december about the infection. The censorship has been taking place after January 1st at least, and has persisted through the most intense moment of the outbreak.
WeChat has a monthly registered user base of over one billion users — meaning that many people may have missing important coronavirus information, and how to avoid its spread.
It is not known why the two organizations chose to block keywords about coronavirus, though the Chinese government may have directed them to do so. WeChat has close relations with the Chinese government, and the government is using WeChat and Twitter to monitor people who thought they posted negative information about the coronavirus disease.
The censorship is highly harmful because it is a vital part of the lives of many Chinese people.
“As a platform, you can live your life with it,” Jacobson said in an interview with BuzzFeed News. “You can pay for things. You can do so much more.”
said David Jacobson, a professor of global business strategy at SMU’s Cox School of Business.