China cracks down on instant messaging apps
CHINA will force real-name registrations on users of instant messaging tools, and require public accounts wishing to publish or reprint political news to seek prior approval, the state media said yesterday.
The latest restrictions will likely affect hugely popular mobile messaging apps like WeChat, which has almost 400 million users.
Other instant messaging tools include Tencent's QQ, Alibaba Group Holding's Laiwang app, NetEase's Yixin and Xiaomi's Miliao.
Accounts that have not been approved by the instant messaging service provider are forbidden to publish or reprint political news, the official Xinhua news agency said.
The rules "could cool down the traffic of WeChat public accounts and discourage journalists from setting up individual WeChat public accounts", said Fu King-wa, an assistant professor at the University of Hong Kong's Journalism and Media Studies Centre.
Some foreign messaging apps – including KakaoTalk and Line, both owned by South Korean firms – have been blocked in China for several weeks.
The Chinese authorities say they blocked KakaoTalk and Line as part of efforts to fight terrorism, South Korea said yesterday.
South Korea's Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning said China had confirmed that it has blocked "some foreign messaging applications through which terrorism-related information" was circulating.
The ministry named other blocked apps, like Didi, Talk Box and Vower.
"The ministry will continue negotiations with the Chinese authorities so that users' inconveniences are resolved at the earliest possible date," the director of its Internet Policy unit, Lee Jin Gyu, told reporters.
The new regulations come as China continues a crackdown on online "rumours", which rights groups say is an excuse to punish those who publish information critical of the ruling party.
Hundreds of people have been detained during the campaign, while several bloggers have been handed lengthy jail sentences, resulting in a decline in the use of microblogs.