China renews crackdown on Tencent's messaging app WeChat

BEIJING Tue May 27, 2014 7:43am EDT

A picture illustration shows a WeChat app icon in Beijing, December 5, 2013. REUTERS/Petar Kujundzic

A picture illustration shows a WeChat app icon in Beijing, December 5, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Petar Kujundzic

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BEIJING (Reuters) - China will begin a month-long crackdown on Tencent Holdings Ltd.'s popular WeChat messaging application, state media reported on Tuesday, the latest in a series of curbs on online freedom of expression.

WeChat, whose Chinese name means "micromessage", has quickly become a news source for savvy mobile users in China, where most traditional news sources are heavily censored.

"Some people are using this platform to disseminate negative or illegal harmful information to the public, seriously damaging the internet system and hurting public interest, causing dissatisfaction among internet users," an unnamed person responsible for the campaign told the state-owned China News Service.

The crackdown would particularly focus on accounts sending information with the ability to "communicate (widely) and mobilize society", the report said. Accounts spreading rumors and ideas on violence, terrorism, cheating and sex would be targeted.

Tencent could not be immediately reached for comment.

Authorities would also seek to weed out domestic and foreign forces seeking to infiltrate and sabotage China, China News Service added.

Authorities shuttered dozens of popular accounts sending out social or political articles and information in March. [ID:nL3N0MB2UB]

Unlike popular microblogging services such as Sina Corp's Sina Weibo, where messages can reach millions of people in minutes, WeChat allows users to communicate in small, private circles of friends, and send text and voice messages for free - a big part of its success.

The party renewed a campaign on online discourse last year, threatening legal action against people whose perceived rumors on microblogs are reposted more than 500 times or seen by more than 5,000 people.

(Reporting By Megha Rajagopalan; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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