- WeChat has temporarily halted new user sign-ups in mainland China.
- The messaging giant has no choice if it wants to comply with local privacy laws.
- The move reflects a larger crackdown on Chinese tech companies.
Don’t be shocked if you can’t sign up for WeChat in China — you’ve been intentionally locked out. Reuters reports the Tencent-owned messaging app has temporarily stopped accepting new users in mainland China as it upgrades to “align with relevant laws and regulations.”
WeChat expects to complete the China registration upgrade sometime in early August. Tencent didn’t expect this to do substantial damage to its bottom line.
While WeChat didn’t elaborate on the changes, the move came as China was cracking down on tech companies allegedly breaking privacy laws through their data collection practices. TikTok‘s parent ByteDance, LinkedIn, and ride-hailing firm Didi Chuxing have all faced Chinese government accusations of privacy breaches.
China is also preparing a Personal Information Protection Law that would demand stricter controls for WeChat and other companies that need to securely store user data.
This won’t matter if you use WeChat outside of China or already have an account. Still, it’s an unusual step that could have a significant impact while the suspension lasts. WeChat is a “super app” that can handle many aspects of daily life in the country, including shopping and important services. If you can’t sign up, you may have a harder time navigating Chinese society — particularly during a pandemic where remote access is important.