Sex chat on we chat
But already, one out of every four users of We Chat is non-Chinese, and the company has its sights set on world domination.
It has enlisted celebrities including Barcelona footballer Lionel Messi and Bollywood stars Varun Dhawan and Parineeti Chopra to promote it into European, South American, South Asian and other markets.
It does seem there is greater tolerance when it comes to posts in English; it’s something to watch in any case.
It just may prove impossible to impose closed values on an open market.
That’s less than those on the world’s most popular messaging app Whats App (900 million) and on Facebook Messenger (800 million).
But those 650 million – and the number is growing rapidly – aren’t just telling each other what train they’re on, sharing photos of their breakfasts, flirting, or organising or conducting a meeting, though they do all of this too, of course. Users, in China at least, can order and pay for a taxi; donate to their favourite charity; send DIY postcards from whatever city they’re in; transfer money to a friend; find their nearest petrol station; check in for a flight; search a library catalogue for a book; shop; pay off a credit card; book a doctor’s appointment; follow the official accounts of celebrities ranging from Fan Bingbing to John Cusack; buy movie tickets; keep up with the Communist Party line via the People’s Daily (We Chat’s most heavily subscribed official account); check the points on their driver’s licence; top up their mobile accounts and find restaurant reviews, in some cases discovering how many people are queuing for tables before adding their names to the list.
Certainly, the NSA is also watching what you say on Facebook, Twitter and email (or at least to whom you’re saying it), and this should concern us all.
But to date, only China jails people who pass on ‘false information’ (which might, in fact, be true, but inconveniently so) that is then forwarded 500 times or viewed 5,000 times.
These include Tibet, corruption, the forced demolition of houses, the massacre of pro-democracy protestors in Beijing in 1989, ‘petition’, the mistresses kept by officials and even ‘constitutionalism’. We Chat has a voluntary reporting system for ‘illegal content’; when something disappears, the message implies that it was one’s fellow users who were offended by it.
It will be interesting to see how this works in the context of We Chat’s expansion internationally.
Few users in Australia, Europe, the US or elsewhere are likely to tolerate political censorship on a messaging-and-more platform.
Today you are less likely to be asked ‘you mingpian ma? I admit I also occasionally get lost down the rabbit hole of sticker wars: someone sends me one of pigs waving out of a window, I raise them a lipsticked, winking Kim Jong Un, and they put a dancing cat on the table. Or choose the ‘shake’ function: physically shake your phone (producing a satisfying sound like that of maracas) and see who is shaking theirs at the exact same time.
In my limited experience, incidentally, it is always someone in the Middle East.