WeChat says it isn't encouraging pornography with new red envelope feature for Chinese New Year

Chinese internet giants Tencent, owner of WeChat, Alibaba and Baidu have all launched their virtual versions of the lucky ‘red envelope’ tradition for Chinese New Year, but messaging app WeChat has had to defend its new image-based functionality.

WeChat has created a new feature, currently in a testing phase, in which users sent a blurred out image via the messaging app and their friends pay a small fee, send via a virtual red envelope, to reveal the image.

Commentators noted that such functionality may encourage people to send racy images, including the the public security bureau in Xi'an, Shaanxi Province, which has reminded people that sending pornography for profit is illegal, according to reports.

The criticism has forced the business to defend the new function, explaining that it uses human and technology measures to ensure that pornographic content doesn’t appear on WeChat: “It's not true that the new function will trigger the spread of pornographic information," WeChat said in a post on its official WeChat account.

The functionality is due to be released widely on 7 February, the day before the lunar new year celebrations start.

The Chinese internet behemoths are battling it out to become the defacto online payment providers. The tradition of giving red envelopes of cash at Chinese New Year has become the perfect opportunity to introduce people to the idea of sending money digitally, creating an annual land grab for the businesses.

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