Humans are social animals. It’s common knowledge since the beginning of recorded history. You thrive in the company of individuals who share the same values and interests as you and encourage you to become a better person yourself. An open communication is crucial in developing such relationships to ensure that the connection and friendship are not lost despite the passing of time. It is easier to do so now in a modern world dominated by technology. With the help of smartphones, you can easily reach your family and friends no matter the distance.
Social media and the web made communication easier for everyone on the planet. Mobile messaging apps are crucial in your everyday life especially if you own a smartphone yourself – which happens to be a big majority of the population. As long as there is an Internet or WiFi connection, you can connect with all your friends through messaging apps that are often offered for free not to mention the cute and colorful stickers to make your conversations even livelier.
Chinese internet giant Tencent said Saturday its messaging app WeChat had been blocked in Russia, adding it was in touch with authorities to resolve the issue.
WeChat, known as Weixin in China, is the world’s most popular messaging service, with 889 million global users by the end of 2016.
As well as messaging, it also offers payment, ride-hailing and other services, and Tencent has ambitions to spread the app beyond China.
It is unclear how many users WeChat has in Russia.
“We’re experiencing a block and we’re deeply sorry,” a Tencent official said on a company 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.
A spokesman for Russia’s telecoms watchdog Roskomnadzor said the messaging service “did not provide its contact information for the register of information distribution organisations.”
Hey, this is no personal attack on China if that is what you are thinking. These two countries may not always be on the same side but this move is purely business. According to Russia, China failed to provide their contact details to be included in the country’s register of information. Russia passed a law in 2014 requiring search engines, SNS, and messaging services from abroad that storage of Russian user’s info to be restricted within Russia only.
In Russia, WeChat is just the latest casualty in Moscow‘s clampdown on international social media platforms. Last week, the communications regulator blocked Line (LN), Blackberry (BBRY, Tech30) and Imo messengers, according to Russian news outlet RT. In November, it banned LinkedIn, the social network for professionals that’s owned by Microsoft (MSFT, Tech30).
Bigger tech companies like Facebook and Google don’t always comply with Russian rules but they still continue to operate in the country simply because they are mammoth forces to reckon with. Meanwhile, smaller companies have no excuse and will be blocked or banned at the slightest mistake.
The reason behind the ban is that WeChat, owned by Tencent, allegedly did not turn over to Russian authorities the data. Tencent said that as an organization engaged in the distribution of online information, it was required to turn over data when requested by Russian officials. Quartz reports that the possible real reason behind the ban is a law passed in 2014 that mandates all foreign Internet companies to store the data of Russian users on servers in the country and not overseas.
Because Google and Facebook are global giants, these companies, even if it were covered by Roskomnadzor’s regulations, could still operate normally in the socialist European nation even if these companies do not comply with the agency’s laws. However, smaller portals such as LinkedIn was no match to the agency which banned the website when it told the regulatory agency it would not comply.
WeChat, or Weixin in China, has 889 million users around the world, making the app the most popular messaging service in the world. Vadim Ampelonsky, from the regulator, disclosed that it sent letters to Google Play and iTunes to block the app in Russia. Roskomnadzor had also blocked in Russia BlackBerry Messenger and Line, CTV News reported.
It’s ironic actually that Russia just mirrored the extreme censorship regulations imposed by China when it came to technology use and mobile communication but it seems that China is getting a taste of its own medicine right now. If it makes the Chinese feel a little better, though, is that they aren’t the first to be blocked by the Russians. LINE by Japan, Blackberry Messenger, and LinkedIn have all been previously blocked for the same reasons too. Unfortunately, nobody can tell how many Russian WeChat users will be affected by this move as of date.