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    Tencent Fixes Loophole on WeChat that Exposed Social Media Content

    Chinese internet giant, Tencent Holdings says WeChat has fixed a glitch that allowed some of its content to be searchable by external search engines, the owner of China's most popular messaging app said on Friday, raising questions over regulators' latest attempt to crackdown on the internet sector.

    “Due to the recent technology upgrades of the platform, a loophole was found in the Official Accounts’ robots protocol, which allowed external web crawling to access part of the content on WeChat’s Official Accounts platform,” Tencent said in a statement on Friday. 

    “The loophole has now been fixed.” The Shenzhen-based company issued the statement after a Reuters report said content from WeChat’s Official Accounts, a publishing service within the multipurpose social media platform, can be accessed by foreign search engines like Microsoft Corp’s Bing and Google. 

    Web crawling is a typical activity for search engines to discover publicly available web pages and extract data. The information accessed forms part of the list of web pages generated by a user when making an online search.

    Official Accounts on WeChat, which has 1.25 billion monthly active users, enables bloggers and companies to post articles and videos to their followers. Their content can only be searched within the WeChat app.

    Tencent has never published the detailed number of Official Accounts, also known as “public accounts”, but it has stated in some documents that there are about 20 million public accounts.

    Those accounts have become increasingly important sources of news and opinions, as well as other information for the app’s Chinese audience. WeChat is marketed as Weixin on the mainland.

    The quick bug fix by Tencent reflects its efforts to strongly abide by a slate of new laws and regulations that are forcing companies – both foreign and domestic – to keep data related to local customers and operations inside the country.

    WeChat recently upgraded its back office technologies to enable a clearer distinction between the app’s international service and domestic version Weixin. The update was designed to meet the requirements of China’s new Data Security Law, which was rolled out in September, and the Personal Information Protection Law, which will take effect on November 1. 

    While the Chinese government has called for greater interconnectivity between the “walled gardens” of China’s biggest internet companies at home, Beijing is in no rush to drive more information flows between the country and the rest of the world.

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