WeChat wants people to use its video platform. So they did, for digital protests.

According to a person familiar with the matter, the original video uploaded by the producer received 5 million views before it was downloaded. Given how many times it was re-uploaded, the video could have easily reached millions more Chinese that night. Yet every single version, as well as the sympathetic stories that commented on the video, was censored almost immediately.

The intensity of such late-night censorship in China was surprising, says Eric Liu, a former Chinese Internet censor who is now working with the US-based outlet China Digital Times. “The speed at which posts are censored, in seconds [of publishing], It seems really unusual to me. He needs a lot of orders [censorship] Employees work overtime. “

Two screenshots showing leaked orders from local governments to remove video-related content also appeared online. In other words, the order asked both tech companies to “clean” any video, screenshot or derivative content “without exception”. It is difficult to confirm the authenticity of the screenshots, but Liu, who once worked in a Chinese censorship machine, said the terminology used indicates that the screenshots were probably legal.

History repeats … with WeChat Twist

This is not the first time that censorship has led to massive online protests by the people during the epidemic. It happened that night when Chinese whistleblower doctor Lee Wenliang died and again when the story about another Chinese doctor Ai Fan – hailed as “The Whistle-Giver” – was strictly censored.

What’s different this time around is that the new video is mostly spread through WeChat channels, a young video sharing product for which Tencent has struggled to build an audience. Channels allow users to post videos for up to an hour, which can then be shared with friends and distributed to the public through WeChat’s algorithms.

The channels were released in January 2020 in response to the explosive popularity of the local version of TikTok Douyin. In the two years since, Tencent has used every tool to promote channels, including financial incentives for creators, live streaming concerts by A-list celebrities, and bundling products with WeChat, used by more than a billion people.

Nevertheless, the popularity of the channels gradually increased. While it now has almost as many users as Douyin, the average time a user spends on channels per day is 35 minutes, which is one third of Douyin’s 107 minutes.

But on the night of April 22, WeChat channels took center stage.

Ironically, it was Tencent’s own production decisions that made it easier for channels to become a tool of protest. To attract new users, WeChat has made it extremely easy for users to register a channel account (while it may take days to get approved to register a publishing account on WeChat). This made it possible for many people to open public-facing accounts and upload hundreds of versions of the video instantly.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.