What subjects are banned on WeChat? What happens if I break the rules?
Image by Anarchy-Ren; edited by One-Stop staff
WeChat – known as Weixin in China – is one of China’s most popular social networking apps, with 500 million monthly active users as of May 2015. As well as the usual text, audio, video and picture messaging functions, WeChat also offers Moments, which operates rather like Facebook’s newsfeed function, allowing users to give their friends updates about their daily lives. However, the WeChat Security Center has placed certain restrictions on Moments posts…
- No infringing intellectual property rights. Don’t publish other people’s articles without their permission, of course, and don’t reveal business secrets. But also don’t reveal the private information of other users; don’t set up parody or fake celeb accounts; and don’t commit libel.
- No porn. Save it for your Chrome Incognito browser window! No pornographic photos, erotic writing or “suggestive” content is allowed.
- No depictions of violence or selling of potentially violent goods. Don’t go posting videos or images of people or animals being tortured or killed. Why would you even do that in the first place? Also, WeChat prohibits the use of its app to sell either real or imitation lethal weapons. That means no selling firearms, air guns, knives, bows and arrows and similar items.
- No gambling. Don’t sell items used for gambling, nor should you organize gambling sessions or teach people how to gamble.
- No hacking or viruses. If you link to sites that “phish” (try to get sensitive information from) users, or you spread viruses, you’ll get in trouble.
- No organized crime. Wannabe Tony Sopranos should take their “legitimate business” elsewhere. Any attempts to post up content regarding organized crime, such as soliciting or offering criminal acts, or trying to indoctrinate people into criminal organizations or terrorist cells, will – predictably – get you in trouble.
- No fake goods. If you have some Jinny Chu boots and a brand new Abble iFone you want to unload, take them somewhere else; selling counterfeit item is strictly banned on the app. The WeChat rules specifically cite fake cigarettes, money and ID as examples of prohibited items. Stolen items and smuggled goods are similarly no-go areas.
- No false advertising. Related to the previous rule, users shouldn’t post up advertisements for items or offers with the intention of scamming other users. If you’re selling health care products you’d better be sure they do what you promise, and if you offer a service you can’t go back on the deal.
- No spreading false or inflammatory information. Information which is deemed to be likely to disturb the normal order of society, cause public panic or incite misunderstanding and hatred among countries, districts, ethnic groups or religions, should not be shared. This rule also covers the spreading of false information about everyday life; one example of such a rumor spread on WeChat was that shampoo causes cancer; another was that cacti can absorb radiation from computer monitors.
- No inducing people to share or forward information. Here’s a rule we wish Facebook had: feeds which ask their readers to share them in exchange for “likes” or gifts, will be banned. Likewise guilt-tripping posts along the lines of “if you don’t share this you don’t care about puppies” and viral spam messages like “forward this and you will have a year of good luck; ignore it and your head will drop off”.
Reporting other users
All of the rules above are specifically regarding posts in the Moments function; there are no rules governing one-to-one or group chat conversations. If you find that someone is breaking the rules by linking to a webpage and you want to report them, tap the link and let the page open in WeChat; you can find the report button at the bottom-right of the page.
If the message is text or a photograph then you should take a screenshot of it and report it at the WeChat Security Center webpage. The WeChat service team will examine the reported information and decide whether or not to take action.
For any breach of the rules mentioned above, the WeChat team can delete information, freeze accounts for a period of time, block links or even close account permanently. Tencent, the company that owns WeChat, does not have the power to prosecute anyone under the law so can’t enforce any legal punishments. However, there is always the possibility that someone may report illegal Moments to the police.
China’s criminal laws state that if a social media user lies in such a way to damage someone’s reputation, then spreads that information online or gets others to spread it online, it is regarded as being an act of defamation. If the violation is “severe”, the source of the information can be charged by the police. In order for something to be considered “severe”, it must fit one of the following conditions:
- The defamatory information must be clicked and read more than 5,000 times, or forwarded more than 500 times.
- The defamatory information causes the defamed person or his family members mental anguish, or causes them to self-harm or commit suicide.
- The person making the remark has been punished for defamation in past two years, and offends again.
- Other conditions decided by the police.
Punishments can range from a few days’ detention to a jail sentence of up to three years.
- What can I do if a store or restaurant has ripped me off in China?
- How can I get a Chinese Certificate of No Criminal Record from outside China?
- What can I do about noisy grannies, dogs, neighbors or schools in the Chinese mainland?
- What’s it like to be deported from China?
- What will happen if I’m caught with the wrong kind of visa on the Chinese mainland?