In November 2019, the messaging app WeChat took down the account of Chinese American users who wrote messages criticizing the Chinese government. The banned accounts were all based in the United States. A statement by WeChat owner Tencent explained that cross-platform messages between Wechat and its Chinese “sister app” Weixin caused the ban. People with Chinese phone numbers sign up to Weixin, while people with international phone numbers register to WeChat. The two Tencent apps are interoperable but use different servers and store user data in different locations. However, Weixin is ubiquitous in China, meaning that Chinese Americans who are banned from WeChat risk losing contact with their friends and relatives in China. So while Tencent argues that only Weixin users inside China are subjected to Chinese law, WeChat users abroad are de facto subjected to Chinese censorship if they want to keep in touch with friends and family.
Chinese app WeChat bans U.S.-based accounts criticizing Chinese authorities