Chinese tech giant Tencent apologized yesterday for a WeChat feature that allowed US flags to flood conversation screens at the mention of keywords like “civil rights” after users criticized the company for catering to the United States.
Users of WeChat probably know by now that certain words used in conversations trigger an explosion of emojis to flash on the phone screen. “I miss you,” for instance, prompts a flurry of stars to fall down, while “Happy birthday” results in a series of cakes. It’s a delightful, at worst irritating, feature that has had yet to stir up a political storm. Until now.
Global Times relays:
The apology came after the local committee of the Communist Youth League in Fujian Province said on its Sina Weibo Sunday that WeChat offered no such features when typing “National Day” or “China” but icons of the US flag could appear on the screen after typing “civil rights.”
The WeChat team said in a statement that their branch office in the US launched the new feature to honor Martin Luther King Jr., as every Monday of the third week in January marks Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
“The feature was supposed to be only available for users in the US. However, it was opened for some other users due to a mistake in the settings. We apologize for the misunderstanding caused by the error,” read the statement.
As you can expect, the function no longer works for users in mainland China or Hong Kong. The error was blamed on a “technical glitch” in the app.
[Images via Weibo]