very site that is uniquely blocked on China accounts is fully accessible on International accounts, meaning that international users can successfully access the same URLs with We Chat’s internal browser.
However, we did find We proceed by providing an overview of the legal and regulatory system in China, past work on censorship on We Chat, report our new results, and conclude with a discussion on the implications of our findings.
Documenting censorship on a system with a server-side implementation such as We Chat’s requires devising a sample of keywords to test, running those keywords through the app, and recording the results.
We used a sample of keywords found blocked on other apps used in China and systematically tested that sample in two modes: one-to-one chat and group chat.
To sample which URLs We Chat censors, we used a script to automatically test the Alexa Top One Million list of websites using both China and International accounts.
In 2016, over 100 million voice and video calls were made every day via the app, up 180% compared with the volume of calls made over the app in 2015.
The uptick in use is likely a result of faster 4G networks and wireless connections, allowing for higher-quality calls for both voice and video.
We found a greater number of keywords blocked on group chat compared to one-to-one chat, which suggests that communications on group chat are specifically targeted, potentially because group chats can reach a larger number of users.
In both chat modes, users are no longer presented with a warning message when they enter blocked keywords, as indicated by previous reports.
We found that keyword filtering is enabled on We Chat for users with accounts registered to mainland China phone numbers.