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21 Jan 2021

Jeanne Whalen, Washington Post (USA)

USA: California plaintiffs sue Tencent over alleged censorship and surveillance of WeChat app

"California plaintiffs sue Chinese tech giant Tencent, alleging WeChat app is censoring and surveilling them", 21 January 2021

A group of California plaintiffs has filed a lawsuit against Chinese tech giant Tencent in state court, alleging that the company’s WeChat mobile app has censored and surveilled them and shared their data with Chinese authorities.

The lawsuit, which seeks class-action status, claims that the company’s practices violate the plaintiffs’ free-speech and privacy rights and “unjustly enrich Tencent at the expense of California WeChat users.”

The case is another sign of the mounting scrutiny of WeChat, a popular communication tool in China that is also used by millions of Mandarin speakers around the globe. The Trump administration tried to ban the app in the fall, saying it posed threats to national security because it collects “vast swaths” of data on users and offers the Chinese Communist Party an avenue for censoring or distorting information. A federal court issued a preliminary injunction halting that ban, in response to a separate lawsuit saying the ban would harm plaintiffs’ First Amendment rights. [...]

Tencent declined to comment on the lawsuit, pointing to past remarks the company has made about its WeChat operations, including that Tencent “operates in a complex regulatory environment, both in China and elsewhere,” and complies “with local laws and regulations in the markets where we operate.” [...]