Hundreds of WeChat instant messaging accounts have been closed or disabled by parent company Tencent in the wake of increased government regulation.
The cleanup targets mass-publication accounts rather than those used for personal communication. Accounts masquerading as belonging to public organizations and media groups, as well as ones used to spread rumors, are among ones that were closed.
Also affected were accounts that publish illegal advertisements, disturb ethnic unity, commit libel, violate privacy or contain material that is lewd, pornographic or violent, the State Internet Information Office said in a statement released on Friday.
As of Monday, 46 accounts had been terminated and 311 others disabled, their period of suspension ranging from seven to 90 days.
The statement named an account called Zhejiang Xinwen (Zhejiang News) that was closed for routinely releasing false news stories in the name of the only provincial-level news account in Zhejiang that is authorized by the State Council.
Tencent’s swoop followed the introduction of regulations this month stipulating that non-media instant messaging accounts must be certified by service providers and registered with administrative authorities before they release or repost news stories.
The rules require users to vouch for the authenticity of the information they provide, abide by the law and uphold the national interest, public order, the rights of other citizens, social morality and the socialist system.
The statement released on Friday referred to the closed accounts as “the first batch”, suggesting that more will be identified and punished.
More than 800 million people use instant messaging services in China, sending more than 20 billion pieces of information every day.