Evidence shows that communications among users with WeChat accounts registered outside China are under political surveillance. Moreover, according to a Citizen Lab report published on May 7, 2020, they are also being used to train the algorithms WeChat uses to censor and monitor China-registered users.
WeChat is a communication application released by China’s Tencent in 2011. It is used by more than 1 billion people worldwide, and ranks the third-largest in the world, after Whatsapp and Facebook.
As with all social media in China, WeChat actively censors on its platform, including around politically sensitive topics and discussions related to the coronavirus pandemic. The censorship of users appears to be for accounts registered to mainland China’s phone numbers.
WeChat is required by law to share user data with the State government. Tests at the Citizen Lab showed that, for the first time, communications among non-mainland-China users are subject to surveillance.
Further, it has been demonstrated that such communications are also being used to train the algorithms WeChat uses to censor and monitor China-registered users. After documents and images containing politically sensitive content were sent solely among non-China-registered accounts, it was observed that, shortly thereafter, those files were censored for China-registered users.
Source: Radio Free Asia, May 7, 2020