The cryptocurrency scene in China has been dealt a major blow overnight. Several prominent media outlets have had their WeChat accounts frozen for spreading too much hype about cryptocurrency.
WeChat is one of China’s leading social media and messenger services, owned by telecommunications giant Tencent. WeChat is also used as for payments, in-store purchases and news. At least eight legitimate publications focused directly on cryptocurrency have been banned from the platform indefinitely, as spotted by local media Lanjinger.
An official statement from WeChat declares that the suspended accounts violate Chinese law by publishing virtual currency trading information and hyping initial coin offerings (ICOs). As such, it states that it has been ordered to block all content from those accounts.
The South China Morning Post reports that Shenlian Caijing was one of the media outlets affected. Established earlier this year by a group of veteran Chinese journalists, it has already raised almost $1.5 million in funding from prominent angel investors Dfund and Plum Ventures. This shows us that this isn’t some attempt at curbing cryptocurrency spambots – outlets with credibility are being silenced.
Such moves are really to be expected, considering its government is doing so much to stamp out what’s left of cryptocurrency in China. In June, it declared victory over cryptocurrency trading by claiming that just one percent of Bitcoin transactions are made using local currency. In the same week, it announced arrests related to a $1.5 billion World Cup cryptocurrency gambling ring.
The government has influenced these banning sprees before; cryptocurrency exchanges, both local and worldwide, have previously had their WeChat accounts taken away.
The relationship between China’s social media and its central government is not to be understated. The top three social media platforms in the country have been under heavy scrutiny for a while.
Last year, China’s National Cyberspace Agency announced extensive investigations into WeChat, Baidu, and Weibo. It alleged that all three platforms allowed users to spread rumors and pornography, among other things. The threat of government action spooked Baidu so much that it immediately expressed “regret” and promised it would “increase the intensity of auditing.”
Whether or not these tactics lead to long lasting victory over China’s unsanctioned cryptocurrency markets is still up in the air. This WeChat exodus is certainly not the be-all and end-all of cryptocurrency media in the country – but it sets a dangerous precedent that may influence other platforms, especially those easily spooked by their government.
Published August 22, 2018 — 10:45 UTC