WeChat is using foreign users to strengthen its censorship system in China


John Pasden

It has become clear that the Chinese message application 'WeChat' uses the messages sent from overseas users to strengthen and build the censorship algorithm for accounts in China.

We Chat, They Watch: How International Users Unwittingly Build up WeChat's Chinese Censorship Apparatus-The Citizen Lab

WeChat's surveillance of international users boosts censorship in China, researchers say | CBC News

WeChat is more than just a message app, it can be used for payment of utility bills, vehicle dispatch services, home delivery services, and online courses, making it an 'app used for all daily activities' in China.

WeChat is also available outside of China and has over 1 billion users worldwide. WeChat has long been pointed out that it has been used for censorship in China, but it was not clear until now whether censorship affected users registered with overseas phone numbers. Therefore, the Global Security Research Institute 'Citizen Lab' at the University of Toronto, Canada, conducted tests for three months from November 2019 to January 2020. We investigated how app usage of overseas users is related to censorship.

According to Citizen Lab director Ron Dabert, WeChat also systematically monitors content sent from overseas users and uses it to build censorship algorithms in China. thing. Specifically, images and documents sent by WeChat users registered overseas are also censored, and if they are considered 'confidential,' they will be digitally signed and blacklisted. After that, these images and documents cannot be sent or received by users registered in China.

In fact, Citizen Lab tests have confirmed that images and documents sent by foreign users triggered censorship when sent within China.

The findings will of course require WeChat to be re-evaluated from a security perspective, but Mr. Debert also strongly calls for 'moral issues.' This is because the use of WeChat by overseas users will provide a free labor force to strengthen the oppression in China.

“WeChat is essentially doing political oversight for users of international apps outside of China. This data is used to train censorship algorithms and to monitor the Chinese population. Facts, 'said Debert.

Researchers at Citizen Lab investigated WeChat's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy for users inside and outside of China, but since January was unclear as to the use of data by overseas users, information from Tencent Data International Protection Office from January The researcher says that no meaningful answers were obtained at the time of writing the article, although the disclosure is requested. He also sent questions to Tencent about the findings, but he said he wouldn't contact him.

In addition, it is reported that in March 2020, WeChat censored the new coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) and put the keyword on the blacklist.

in Software,   Security, Posted by darkhorse_log