Line censoring messages in China

370 banned words found; firm mum on who’s selecting them and why

Marking a milestone: Line Corp. CEO Akira Morikawa announces Monday that the number of users of the firm’s instant messaging service has topped 300 million. | KYODO

by Tomoko Otake

Staff Writer

In another example of the dilemmas facing Internet companies operating in China, Japan-based instant messaging app provider Line Corp. has been censoring chats among users there, blocking the transmission of politically sensitive words and phrases.

Line, which announced Monday that the number of people using its app has topped 300 million worldwide, launched its services for Chinese users last December under the brand Lianwo, in partnership with Chinese IT company Qihoo 360 Technology Co.

Recent research by the Citizen Lab, an Internet security and human rights research group at the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto, has confirmed that censorship functions are activated on Android smartphone and tablet users in China, and that similar functions probably exist for iPhone users as well.

“When you sign up for Line, you need to verify your phone number,” Seth Hardy, a senior security researcher at the lab, said. “The phone number is used to determine what your home country is. If your home country is China, it will activate the censorship functions no matter where you physically are.”

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Categories: Censorship

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