wechat reuters 1625640019926

The owner of China’ most popular messaging app said on Friday that Tencent’s WeChat had fixed a glitch that allowed external search engines to search some of its content, which raised questions about the latest attempts by regulators to crack down on the Internet industry.

A Reuters investigation revealed that some content on WeChat, including articles on its public account page, can be searched briefly on Alphabet’ Google and Microsoft’s Bing in the past few days, but on China’s dominant search engine Baidu But it can’t be searched.

This change has sparked speculation that Tencent is listening to the Chinese authorities’ call for its tech giants to dismantle the “walled garden” in the country’ cyberspace, which has occurred in the context of a widespread crackdown on the industry.

Tencent said in a Chinese statement: “Due to recent technological upgrades, there are loopholes in the official account robot protocol, which caused external crawlers to grab some official account content.”

“The vulnerability has been fixed.”

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

The ability to find WeChat content on Google and Bing was originally proposed by users on the developer forum. China’ Internet industry has long been dominated by a small number of technology giants, which have historically blocked competitors’ links and their search crawlers. This practice is often referred to as a “walled garden”.

In recent months, this approach has become a target of the Chinese authorities as part of a comprehensive regulatory crackdown.

Last month, China’ Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) ordered companies to stop blocking links, which they said affected the user experience and harmed consumer rights.

See also  Google buys cybersecurity firm Mandiant for $5.4 billion

According to a person familiar with the matter, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology has been studying plans and conducting research to provide WeChat content on external search engines.

The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Some users on China’ Twitter-like Weibo platform expressed disappointment with Tencent’s comments.

A user said: “This should be an important attempt to create an open Internet space. How can you call it a bug?”

© Thomson Reuters 2021

By Rebecca French

Rebecca French writes books about Technology and smartwatches. Her books have received starred reviews in Technology Shout, Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, and Booklist. She is a New York Times and a USA Today Bestseller...