China’s biggest political summit is around the corner and you can expect to witness plenty of censorship news rolled out in China over the next week. The 19th summit starts from today onwards and the online media is to be silenced until the end of October. China’s National Party Congress, held in every five years is an immensely influential political summit which amongst many other important political decisions, facilitates the selection of country’s central party leadership. Today also draws the curtain on online media in China for the following month. The very first glimpse of which is seen through the censorship administered on the country’s most popular messaging app- WeChat.
Eve of the 19th party congress: WeChat suddenly announces users are blocked from changing avatars, nicknames and taglines till end of month pic.twitter.com/QoEMnY1eyF— Matthew Brennan (@mbrennanchina) October 17, 2017
WeChat expert and ChinaChannel blogger Matthew Brennan notes that for the following month the app will experience heavy censorship. More than 800 million registered users will be unable to change their taglines, nicknames or profile photo until the end of this month. Though the move seems very subtle but is directed to curb the spread of political ideas and opinions of the masses. It's not the first instance where WeChat will adopt censorship at the advent of an important political event. The company has conspicuously blocked specific sensitive words to avoid responsibility for user content, in case the government demands responsibility. However, the move is highly subtle as it quietly removes a setting that informed users when one of their words is censored.
WeChat is not the only one rolling out these limitations though, you can expect Weibo, China’s top social network, along with other online media platforms to follow the trend. Weibo has also followed the footsteps of WeChat as it blocks photo uploads from users and last month it imposed a final deadline for users to identify their identity. Furthermore, in order to avoid accountability of any user content, any “anonymous content” in general is banned on the Chinese internet.
Foreign companies which will be impacted by the censorship curtail includes WhatsApp, Airbnb, Facebook, Twitter, Google along with several other foreign media platforms. As a result, Airbnb homes will not be available in certain areas in Beijing through October 31st. The tech giants as big Apple have also failed before the censorship laws led Apple to remove VPNs services from its App Store, so China’s “Great Firewall” internet censorship system wasn’t circumvented.
The 19th Summit takes place on Wednesday and is likely to last around a week.