The Chinese ‘super-app’ WeChat, which is indispensable in China, has approximately 1.2 billion monthly active users worldwide, including 100 million installations outside of China. The app has become the long arm of the Chinese regime, extending the PRC’s techno-authoritarian reach into the lives of its citizens and non-citizens in the diaspora. WeChat users outside of China are increasingly finding themselves trapped in a mobile extension of the Great Firewall of China through which they’re subjected to surveillance, censorship and propaganda.
This report also shows how COVID-19 has ushered in an expanded effort to covertly censor and control the public diplomacy communications of foreign governments on WeChat. The report recommends that governments implement transparent user data privacy and user data protection frameworks that apply to all social media networks. If companies refuse to comply with such frameworks, they shouldn’t be allowed to operate.