How the CCP can control Aussie pollies on WeChat

Via the Saturday Paper comes Wanning Sun, professor of media studies at University of Technology Sydney:

…It is still too early to tell whether a strong WeChat presence will translate into votes for Labor. Dr Chaoguang Chen, the president of the newly established Chinese Australian Multicultural Association, says these short live sessions are “largely symbolic” but “still important in influencing voters”. He notes, “They demonstrate the willingness of party candidates to reach out and engage with the Chinese communities.”

As the campaign gains momentum, the use of WeChat by individual politicians and the major parties has become a staple topic in the media’s election coverage. In the past few weeks, there have been prominent stories about the risks of political interference and the Chinese government’s censorship of WeChat, especially since it was revealed several key politicians’ accounts – including those of Shorten and Morrison – were registered with the IDs of Chinese entities, giving those accounts greater reach on WeChat but also opening them up to closer scrutiny by Chinese authorities. Some analysts from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute said that the adoption of WeChat in Australia posed a threat to our national security.

Scholarly research indeed suggests that censorship by the Chinese government is relatively frequent within the three key WeChat spaces – the chat function, WeChat Moments and official WeChat public subscription accounts. WeChat’s gatekeeping strategies include keyword identification, maintaining watch lists of individuals and organisations, algorithmic recognition of politically sensitive images, and close scrutiny of high-risk locations.

Most of the media stories about WeChat and the forthcoming election convey a sense of risk, but few acknowledge that, while journalists are concerned about censorship, politicians are far more pragmatic. They seem willing to take a calculated risk and embrace WeChat, possibly because the prospect of being outmanoeuvred by their opponents is far more frightening than Chinese censors. Labor has at least two painful reminders of the platform’s power: the Liberal Party’s 2016 victory in Chisholm, thanks in part to Gladys Liu’s successful WeChat campaign; and the state Liberal candidate Scott Yung’s claim that he used WeChat to cruel Michael Daley’s chances in the New South Wales election, with a 5.1 per cent swing to the Liberals in Yung’s seat of Kogarah.

But any Australian politician looking to leverage WeChat will need to carefully navigate the complex politics that exist within these groups. Individuals can only be brought into a group by an existing member, and if members do not adhere to group rules, they can be ousted by the group leader – usually the person who starts the group.

Recently, WeChat users have been warned that group leaders must take responsibility for any politically controversial or socially destabilising content posted in their groups.

Acutely aware of WeChat’s capacity to block content based on certain keywords and images, the leaders of these groups constantly remind members not to discuss Chinese politics. Even though WeChat users who sign up using a non-Chinese ID are subject to less scrutiny and face less severe consequences, most WeChat groups see it as their responsibility to rein in any discussions that stray into Chinese politics, with such posts as, “No Chinese politics, please. We are in Australia, and we are only concerned here with Australian politics.”

Is there a difference?

Houses and Holes
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  1. Why isn’t the Federal Govt proposing to censor WeChat like it does Facebook and a certain mongolian basket weaving forum???……Oh wait…

    • “(It will tell us) where people are using Wi-Fi, what they’re using Wi-Fi for, are they watching YouTube etc, all these bits of information we can share with businesses … we can let businesses know ‘hey, 80 per cent of people actually use Instagram within this area of the city, between these hours”.

      in other words….”stop watching those nasty racists on YouTube”……………..

    • How can they publish that completely discredited bs about Cheng Ho coming to Darwin, it’s just sucking up & giving China an excuse to do what they did in the SCS one day.

      • These people are certifiable sociopaths and narcissists. They will do anything for $ and sacrifice the future of all territorians for a bit of circle jerk kudos and prominence. Small town, Small minds. Huge egos! Shame job alright.

    • the fact that both sides are pandering to Chinese voters via WeChat demonstrates the amount of influence the increasing Chinese population in Australia’s largest two cities has.

  2. WeChat and Weibo should be blocked in the West as a fair and reasonable reciprocal response to Beijing’s blocking of Western media and social media.

    • JojoyubbyMEMBER

      100%, having said that, they banded foreigners from buying RE in China. What has been our government’s policy?

      • Our Govt response has been to give them 15% tax of Aussie property. While Aussies pay their margin rate ( 49 or 24 after CGT discount ), foreign REITs get 15%. What a joke

    • My sentiments entirely. Why are Australian politicians using WeChat at all?

      Do they endorse the no discussing Chinese politics stance of WeChat?
      Do they endorse the treatment of Uiyghurs and Tibetans?

    • Dear f.wit pollies. if you post anything on effing wechat, i will not effing vote for you. Simples.

    • CHina protects its own citizens, our country sells out its own citizens. China has a social credit score, ours is implementing as we speak. China penalises free speech, ours is about to make it illegal to say ‘offensive’ things. I wish the dumb people of this country would wake the fk up and at least become interested in what our political parties are doing and vote accordingly

  3. Why are WeChat and Weibo just not banned outright? There has never been a more obvious or clearer threat to subvert our democracy than allowing millions of Chinabot’s under the mind control of the motherland to vote as directed in our elections.

    The ISPs are pretty happy to step in and block things like the Christchurch massacre…

    …so where are the idiots who voted on the encryption bill? Safety! Safety!