WeChat Causes Another Scandal by Practicing Unruly Censorship on Douyin

A new HTML5 campaign video of “Night at the Museum” by Douyin, or Tik Tok as its international version is called, encountered an unusual social media ban after its launch on May 18.

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The compaign video, named “the First Summit of Cultural Relics Drama Queens” to promote the International Museum Day, went viral on WeChat. It was soon banned around noon on the same day.

the campaign video

At around 1:15 p.m., the HTML5 video was visible again but Douyin users found that the setting of the video on WeChat became “private”, which is visible by the user only, even though they shared it with friends on the platform.

WeChat said that they first banned the video because they suspected some content on the last page of the H5 campaign of “persuasive sharing” while no appeal or explanations came from the H5 producer.

In these situations, once the content has been changed according to guidelines then users can see and share the content again once it is verified by the platform, according to WechatPie, an official Wechat account.

But Douyin, or Tik Tok, the most downloaded video app in China, responded in its statement that the move by Wechat to set the view mode as private was “elusive and deceptive.” Even though they were willing to respect the rules of WeChat to get basic distribution of the International Museum Day, it was hard for them to adjust to Wechat’s swing attitudes within several hours.

WeChat and Douyin.

The following is the full text of Douyin’s Statement titled “False Allegations of Official WeChat Account WechatPie”:

1.The person in charge of WeChat’s public relations stated that the video was not banned twice, and that after a quick manual extraction, the campaign was indeed seen as a violation against the rules, so its sharing setting was changed to “private” mode as a penalty.

The backend data of the HTML5 video shows that it was banned by WeChat for the first time at 12 o’clock (the web link was blocked directly, and a large number of media personnel noticed it). At 1:15 p.m., access to the HTML5 resumed without any notification, and users can browse and share it again. But two hours later, at 3:00 p.m., we received several feedbacks one after another, that the setting of the shared HTML5 posts on WeChat moment was changed into “private” again. There was no notification during this process, and there were no buttons for appeal on the WeChat backend.

It should be noted that the “private” setting refers to a viewable setting that allows no one but the user to see the post on WeChat moments. It is inherently equivalent to banning, which appears very elusive and deceptive. Therefore, many users failed to realize the trick, and some people even thought the ban has already been lifted.

2.We followed the rules of WeChat. However, WeChat accused us of inducing users to share it on the last page of the HTML5 campaign, and they have not received any appeals or explanations from our side. According to WeChat, this is the main reason for banning.

In fact, this campaign, unilaterally regarded as “inducing users to share” by WeChat, was already deleted at 5:01 p.m. on May 18. As there is no “appeal” portals on WeChat’s backend, at 5:49 p.m. (that is, before the WeChat announcement), we entrusted the video producer to send an email requesting for ban reversal. However, no response has been received so far. Below is the screenshot of the message:

screenshot of the message

In addition, we tried making appeals through the backend when we were banned for the first time. However WeChat said it had not received any appeals or explanations.

3.We respect the rules of WeChat. In order for this HTML5 campaign that promotes museum culture to get the basic distribution on the International Museum Day, we are willing to make the changes as required by WeChat. However the constantly changing responses and directions from WeChat for the past six hours has left us in bewilderment and unknowing how to proceed.

This article originally appeared in Techweb and was translated by Pandaily.