China on Thursday put into effect a new set of restrictions on instant-messaging services like WeChat as a means to “safeguard national security and public interests”, and they’re pretty heavy-duty. The regulations require real-name registration for public accounts and allow only authorized news media to publish or repost political news through public accounts, among other rules.
The regulations, issued by China’s State Internet ad Information Office, are aimed to promote the “healthy development of instant messaging services,” and went into effect immediately following publication.
Global Times elaborates:
The real-name registration requirement only applies to public accounts, and they can still customize their account name. Tencent has already been deploying the procedure, requesting registrants to provide a clear picture of them holding their ID card, or provide a business license for organizations, a public relations manager told the Global Times via e-mail.
Another clause in the new rule attracted wide attention, as only public accounts operated by media outlets, or those with an Internet news service certificate, can publish or repost political news. Others are not allowed to do so “without approval.”
The new rule did not define “political news,” while a 2005 Internet news service regulation defines it as “reports and commentaries related to political, economic, military and diplomatic affairs as well as breaking events.”
Public account users are also required to sign an agreement upon registration promising “to comply with the law, the socialist system, the national interest, citizens’ legal rights, public order, social moral customs, and authenticity of information,” Xinhua reported.
Tencent’s WeChat, the wildly popular messaging app now catering to over 400 million users, is one of the main targets of the new regulations. Other messaging apps taking the hit include Tencent’s QQ, Alibaba’s Laiwang app, and Xiaomi’s Miliao app.
Tencent stressed that the new rules would only apply to public accounts and not to everyday users, according to Reuters.
You can find a direct translation of the new rules in English here.