Tencent says ‘loophole’ allowed WeChat searches on Google and Bing

Small toy figures can be seen in front of the WeChat logo in this illustration photo taken on March 15, 2021. REUTERS / Dado Ruvic / Illustration

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BEIJING, Oct.22 (Reuters) – Tencent’s WeChat (0700.HK) fixed an issue that allowed some of its content to be searched by external search engines, the owner of the messaging app said on Friday. most popular in China, raising questions about regulators. latest crackdown on the Internet sector.

Some of WeChat’s content, including articles on its public accounts page, was briefly searchable in recent days on Google (GOOGL.O) and Microsoft (MSFT.O) Bing, owned by Alphabet, but not on the engine. China’s dominant research Baidu (9888 .HK), Reuters checks have shown.

The change sparked speculation that Tencent was responding to a call from Chinese authorities for its tech giants to demolish “walled gardens” in the country’s cyberspace, which came amid a widespread industry crackdown. .

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“Due to recent technology upgrades, the official accounts bots protocol was flawed, causing external bots to scratch some content from official accounts,” Tencent said in a Chinese statement.

“The flaws have since been corrected.”

Google, Microsoft and Baidu did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Google is not available in China.

The ability to find WeChat content on Google and Bing was initially raised by users on the developer forums. China’s internet industry has long been dominated by a handful of tech giants who have historically blocked the links of their rivals as well as their search bots, a practice often referred to as “walled gardens.”

In recent months, this practice has been targeted by Chinese authorities as part of a broad regulatory crackdown.

Last month, China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) ordered companies to stop blocking links, which they said affected user experience and violated rights. of consumers. Read more

MIIT has also studied plans and conducted research to make WeChat content available on external search engines, according to a person with direct knowledge.

MIIT did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Some users of the Chinese Twitter-like platform Weibo expressed dismay at Tencent’s comments.

“This should be a big attempt to create an open internet space, how can you call that a bug,” one user said.

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Reporting by Yingzhi Yang and Brenda Goh; Editing by Jacqueline Wong and Kim Coghill

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.