China imposes new restrictions on instant messaging tools

China will force real-name registrations on users of instant messaging tools and require public accounts wishing to publish or reprint political news to seek prior approval, state media reported today. Last year, China launched a campaign to clamp down on online rumour-mongering and “clean up” the Internet. The crackdown has led to an exodus of users from Twitter-like microblog platforms such as Weibo Corp’s Weibo after authorities detained hundreds of outspoken users.

We will take measures against offensive and abusive activities to ensure compliance with relevant regulations.

Spokeswoman for Chinese Web messaging firm Tencent

The latest restrictions will likely affect hugely popular mobile messaging apps such as Tencent Holdings Ltd’s WeChat, which has almost 400 million users. Other instant messaging tools include Tencent’s QQ, Alibaba Group Holding Ltd’s Laiwang app, NetEase Inc’s Yixin and Xiaomi Inc’s Miliao. Accounts that haven’t been approved by the instant messaging service provider are forbidden to publish or reprint political news, the official Xinhua news agency said. It added that service providers must verify and publicly mark accounts that can publish or reprint political news.

WeChat, and social media, are now truly mass media and regulated as such.

Duncan Clark, chairman of Beijing-based tech advisory BDA