After refusing to testify before a federal government inquiry into foreign involvement, the Chinese instant messaging, social networking, and mobile payment software WeChat is now at risk of being banned in Australia.
WeChat and its parent firm, Tencent, have been chastised by the Select Committee on Foreign Interference via Social Media, led by Sen. James Paterson, for disrespecting Australia’s political process. Over 1.2 billion people used Tencent’s WeChat in September 2020, with roughly 690,000 Australians using the app regularly.
Sen. Paterson expressed severe concern that the probe would draw conclusions based on WeChat’s lack of openness because it was the only major social media business to decline to attend the sessions. He stressed that the absence of WeChat and Tencent casts “very grave doubts about their willingness to comply with Australian law.”
The Australian government cannot compel WeChat to appear in the investigation since the business has no formal presence there.
After Seth Kaplan, a lecturer at Johns Hopkins University, expressed concern that WeChat constituted a more significant threat than TikTok, the business decided not to attend the investigation. According to Kaplan, managing narratives, information, and conflicting viewpoints made WeChat more subject to false narratives and manipulation, making it a more significant threat than TikTok.
since WeChat’s control over this informational sphere, those who speak Mandarin are particularly at risk since they no longer have “free access to diverse views and opinions.” In addition, he voiced his displeasure with the CCP’s use of the app to meddle in foreign governments and society.
According to Kaplan, a candidate who was critical of the CCP benefited greatly from a political information campaign on WeChat in a district in Toronto, Canada, with a large population of Chinese immigrants. Aside from the federal level, he also saw it happening at the state and municipal levels, which he argued were even more susceptible.
Instead of a discussion among locals, a foreign government that does not have the people’s best interests at heart controls WeChat, which plays a significant role in the dialogue.