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WeChat allegedly monitoring its overseas users

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WeChat, China’s ubiquitous social networking app, rules the roost in China with functions ranging from messaging to mobile payment that cater to user’s modern needs.

It also has an unrivaled user base among the Chinese diaspora and netizens across Taiwan and Southeast Asia, with over one billion active monthly users worldwide.

But that massive expansion could start to slow if recent allegations of Chinese monitoring of the app’s overseas users have merit.

The University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab claims in a recent research report that WeChat uses systematic algorithms and a special task force to monitor everything sent, posted and shared by the app’s overseas users.

These WeChat users, Citizen Lab said, could be collateral targets as the primary goal may be to beef up censorship of messages targeting mainland Chinese netizens.

The system, according to Citizen Lab, tags a digital signature to anything deemed as sensitive through keyword searches, while data analysis screens content to possibly put it on a blacklist for further vetting.

The furtive content filtering includes screening messages, images, files and links sent or posted by WeChat users overseas and, should a cautionary flag be raised, the censorship of any deemed as improper content.

Anything on the censorship list, Citizen Lab says, will not be disseminated to WeChat’s mainland version. The process is developed to corral the Internet and filter the exchanges between WeChat users at home and abroad, it said.

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