Tencent resumes new user sign-ups on WeChat after ‘security upgrade’ last week

By Josh Ye

WeChat had paused new users registrations so it could upgrade its ‘security technology to align with all relevant laws and regulations’. According to tests conducted by the South China Morning Post on Thursday, the Shenzhen-based company has reopened the app to new sign-ups. — SCMP

Chinese tech giant Tencent Holdings has resumed new user registrations for its ubiquitous superapp WeChat after it suspended new sign-ups last week while it conducted a “security upgrade”, a move which had raised concerns over the intensity and depth of Beijing’s regulatory push into the tech sector.

Weixin, the mainland Chinese version of WeChat, had paused new users registrations so it could upgrade its “security technology to align with all relevant laws and regulations”, the company said in a brief statement at the time.

The suspension of sign-ups only applied to mainland users, not those joining from overseas.

The Shenzhen-based company has since reopened the app to new sign-ups, according to tests conducted by the South China Morning Post on Thursday.

Tencent confirmed that new user registration on Weixin has resumed.

WeChat is China’s most used mobile application with over 1.2 billion people who use it to chat, play games, shop, read the news and pay for almost everything online and off.

Since its launch in January 2011, the popular social app has undergone about 100 updates, but it is rare for it to be unavailable to new users for days.

The news caused a drubbing of the giant’s shares in Hong Kong. Tencent’s share price dropped 9% when the news first broke, marking the worst single-day drop in a decade. At one point last Wednesday, the company’s share price was down another 5% before finishing largely flat at the close.

The suspension of new sign-ups had unnerved investors last week, as it came while Beijing tightens its grip on the internet industry, including how tech companies collect data.

The soon-to-be enacted Personal Information Protection Law (PIPL), China’s first legislation dedicated to data privacy, will introduce more restrictions on how companies handle personal data. Big Tech platforms, for instance, will each be asked to create an independent oversight body tasked with scrutinising their data privacy practices.

Recently, ride-hailing giant Didi Chuxing has faced mounting regulatory pressure on cybersecurity grounds. Beijing ordered more than 25 Didi-linked apps to be removed from the country’s app stores over allegations of illegal collection and use of user data.

Tencent’s shares took a further beating earlier this week after a state media article called video games “spiritual opium”, a characterisation it later walked back. Over the past 30 days, Tencent’s shares have plunged nearly 19% by midday on Thursday.

In addition to the resumption of new sign-ups, Tencent upgraded WeChat on Thursday to version 8.0.9, which supports simultaneous logins across multiple devices, a highly requested feature. The app also now supports customised ringtones. – South China Morning Post

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