WeChat users are unable to escape the long reach of Chinese censors, even if they leave mainland China and switch to an overseas phone number, according to a study carried out by the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab.
It found that Chinese users venturing abroad were subject to the same restrictions as those at home suffering from keywords being blocked out and some messages blocked entirely wherever they happen to find themselves – if they continue to use the same username.
For users with accounts registered in Hong Kong or the US such restrictions were not found to apply however.
WeChat owner Tencent Holdings insisted that it complies with all laws and regulations in territories within which it operates, having devised a dual-system of censorship and free speech to allow it to comply with China’s stringent domestic controls on political discourse.
174 keywords and phrases were found to trigger automated censorship software including ‘Free Tibet’ and ‘Isis Crisis’.