Gentle readers, please don’t think for a minute that the headline is the actual story.
WeChat is being blocked in Russia for allowing messaging to occur over Russian telecommunications systems that Russia cannot monitor.
More specifically, it’s not that Russia can’t monitor these communications, but without WeChat ‘registering’ with Russian authorities, Russia cannot identify individual users and identify what they are saying. In other words, protesters, strikers, and even those seeking a colored revolution in Russia can communicate with relative impunity.
Now that WeChat is moving to register with the Russian authorities, it will soon be, once again, more difficult to communicate surreptitiously.
BLACKLIST: A 2014 law requires that foreign Internet services must store the data of Russian users in Russia or their access will be blocked
Chinese Internet giant Tencent Holdings Ltd (騰訊) yesterday said it was “deeply sorry” its messaging app WeChat (微信) was blocked in Russia, adding it was in touch with authorities to resolve the issue.
WeChat, which had 889 million global users by the end of last year, was not properly registered with Russian regulators, Tencent said. It is not clear how many Russia-based users the app has.
“We’re experiencing a block and we’re deeply sorry,” a company official said on a Tencent microblog.
“Russian regulations say online service providers have to register with the government, but WeChat doesn’t have the same understanding [of the rules],” the official added.
However, Chinese state news agency Xinhua quoted a spokesman for Russia’s telecom watchdog as saying WeChat “did not provide the contact information necessary for registration with authorities.”
A law passed in 2014 requires foreign messaging services, search engines and social networking sites to store the personal data of Russian users inside Russia.
Sites that breach the law are added to a blacklist and Internet providers are obliged to block access.
The law prompted criticism from Internet firms, but entered into force in September 2015, with professional networking site LinkedIn blocked after it was found to have broken the law.