Chinese social media app WeChat has temporarily halted registration for new individual users and public accounts, according to an announcement released by the company on July 27.
WeChat’s announcement notes that the registration suspension has been implemented while it conducts security upgrades to comply with “related laws and regulations” and will be lifted once upgrades conclude, which is expected to be in early August.
According to Technode, this is the first time the app has suspended the registration of new users. The move comes as Chinese authorities have scrutinized the anticompetitive practices of tech firms and their data collection and security systems.
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In early July, the popular Chinese ride-hailing app Didi Chuxing was barred from registering new users by the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), with regulators pulling the platform from app stores.
The CAC allegedly inflicted the penalties upon Didi due to the company’s “serious violation of Chinese laws” related to gathering and using customers’ data.
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For the blissfully unaware, WeChat is developed and overseen by its parent company Tencent and is more commonly known in Chinese as Weixin.
The app is an integral part of daily life for both the young and old in China – and everyone in between, functioning as a messaging and social media platform, a digital wallet and financial tool, a video conferencing solution and a gaming platform, among myriad other uses.
In the first quarter of 2021, WeChat reported a whopping 1.24 billion active users, while in 2020, the social media platform generated returns of 108.2 billion RMB — 22% of Tencent’s total revenue.
Netizens were quick to respond to the announcement speculating on the reasons behind the suspension. The hashtag for the announcement has garnered 220 million views on the Chinese microblogging platform Weibo in less than 24 hours.
“This will not have much impact on consumers, as many have already had WeChat accounts for years,” reads one post under the hashtag. “But still, it makes people wonder why WeChat made the move. Maybe WeChat is going through some major changes?”
“Perhaps it’s a new signal to better maintain network security and user information,” reads another.
Additional reporting by Lu Zhao.
Cover image by Matthew Bossons/RADII
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