Japanese Messaging App Line Planning To Censor Politically Sensitive Phrases In China

Japanese Messaging App Line is working on a mechanism to restrict use of certain phrases on its dedicated China service – Lianwon


The word ‘Censorship’ has been synonymous to the Chinese Government. Social networking companies like Facebook, Twitter and the search giant Google have been legally blocked in the country due to their support to free speech. In fact allowing a phrase related Tiananmen Square massacre got the location service Foursquare blocked in China. However, the Japanese Messaging App Line which has more than 150 million users is working on a mechanism to restrict use of certain phrases on its dedicated China service – Lianwon (News Source: TNW).

The planned change was noticed by Twitter user @hirakujira who highlighted in his tweet that the app has a way to detect selected phrases considered to be ‘bad words.’ The below tweet hints the change been made.

Besides this @hirakujira has also obtained a list of 150 words that the company has planned to raise a red flag once any user uses them. The entire list which is in a local language could be found here. However, the planned monitoring has not been executed (TNW did carry out some tests with the blocked keywords but it had no problems) but Line will be monitoring the conversations globally despite being blocked only in China.

The news comes at a time when Line is focusing on its global expansion other than its local market Japan. China definitely is a lucrative market for the messaging app which had launched itself in December 2012. However, it has been a known fact that internet services can flourish only if you bow down to the subjects like censorship otherwise get ready to be punished severely.

Last year, Sina Weibo, a Twiter like service had to suffer a similar action from the Chinese government when its commenting system was shut down for three days after it was adjudged to have been slow in responding to coup speculation that had emerged on its platform.

Earlier this year Tencent-owned WeChat, a dominant mobile messaging app with more than 300 million users, came under fire for censoring ‘sensitive’ topics that its users were discussing. Though Tencent apologized for its WeChat censorship, which affected users worldwide, but referred to the issue only as “a technical glitch.” But, the damage was done.

Line which recently recorded a whopping $58 million in revenue during the first quarter of 2013, is strongly focusing on its international expansion in countries such as China and US. But the revelation of its supporting censorship could apply brakes on its expansion not only in China but globally too.