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WeChat and YY Censored Coronavirus Keywords As Early As 1st January 2020

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An analysis has found out that the Chinese App, WeChat has been censoring keywords about coronavirus since 1st January 2020. Chinese live-streaming platform YY was also found to be censoring coronavirus content as well.


Citizen Lab, a research group made the discovery. The research group found that WeChat blocked combinations of keywords and criticism of President Xi Jinping.


In making this discovery, the research group made some scripted group chat conversations then sent them to three WeChat accounts. Two of the WeChat accounts were in Canada while the last one was in China. The scripted conversations contained article headlines and text.


Then the group sent the messages from the Canada based accounts to the Chinese one. They observed the kind of messages that got delivered to the Chinese account.


WeChat censors coronavirus keywords
YY is a video streaming video service based in China. Photo:


In January 2019, the group found that 132 keyword combinations were censored. The figure rose to 516 keywords by the second week in February.

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This report points to suggestions that the Chinese government began censoring coronavirus discussion before it announced the outbreak of the disease. China first alerted the World Health Organisation (WHO) about the outbreak on 31st December 2020.

WeChat censored factual information too

WeChat has over 1 billion active users and this means a lot of these users would have missed important updates and information about the deadly disease.


Some of the censored keywords include factual information on the disease and references to the government’s epidemic policies. Also censored is Dr Li Wenliang’s name. The doctor was among the earliest to warn the Chines citizenry about the disease. Li died from the disease on 7th February 2020 at the age of 33, after contracting it from treating coronavirus patients.


Examples of censored combinations Include  “Local authorities + Epidemic + Central (government) + Cover up” and “Wuhan + Obviously + Virus + Human-to-human transmission”.


China’s equivalent of Twitch, YY had 45 keywords on its blacklist as of 31st December 2019. YY removed 5 of the words on 10th February 2020 according to Citizen Lab.


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