China Using WeChat And Twitter To Crack Down On People Sharing Coronavirus Information

HIGHLIGHTS

  • The Chinese Government is monitoring Twitter and WeChat and removing conversations and tweets about coronavirus
  • Government is forcing people to not to talk about coronavirus in group chats.

The Chinese government is finding and tracking down people on social platforms like Twitter and WeChat who are sharing what officials consider to be negative information about the coronavirus outbreak.

The regulation of protest and dissent is considered normal in China. However, people who have shared information about the virus originating in Wuhan and reported the actual number of people dying from virus are being muzzled on social media, directly or indirectly by the Chinese government.

After a whistleblower Li Wenliang died, online protests have erupted in China. Reportedly. Wenliang was reporting the correct number of people who died from coronavirus whereas Chinese government is said to be underreporting the number. The angry reactions were swiftly taken down.

The hashtag “I want freedom of speech” trended on Chinese social media site Weibo, just few hours after Li’s death. It racked up 2 million posts that were removed by the following day.

According to some media reports, crackdowns are focusing on individual and sometimes totally benign posts rather than just larger mass movements. A Chinese man vacationing in California said that he was trying to share information about the coronavirus with family in Wuhan on WeChat. He believes that the Chinese government pushed friends in China to ask about his whereabouts in the USA and received a warning that someone in Shanghai was trying to access his WeChat account.

Another man in Dongguan said that he was visited by some government officials in after he responded to a tweet that criticized the way Chinese government handled the spread of the virus. They called his tweet, “an attack on the Chinese government”. His phone was confiscated by them and he was forced to sign a statement saying he would not repeat the so-called threat.

More than 2,600 people have died from coronavirus and more than 79,000 people are sick at the moment. The Chinese government has been criticized severely for its mishandling of the outbreak. The focus of Chinese government is said to be less on medical remedy and more on censoring news reports about the situation in Wuhan and taking down Wuhan residents’ social media posts, many of which reportedly described the dire conditions.

Group chats also not safe:

China is also cracking down on the use of virtual private networks (VPNs). Many people in China use VPNs in a bid to evade government censors online. The government has even ordered health workers not to mention the coronavirus in group chats.

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