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WeChat snubs Australian Senate Committee, Fuelling Concerns about App's Influence

Updated: Jan 5

Chinese social media giant WeChat declines invitations to testify before Australia's Senate Committee on Foreign Interference, raising concerns about the app's influence on domestic politics.

Credits: Shutterstock

Chinese social media platform WeChat, owned by Tencent Holdings, will not be sending a representative to the hearing on foreign interference in Australia's political affairs, as backlash against the app intensifies.

Australian Liberal Senator James Paterson, a vocal critic of WeChat, revealed that the platform declined multiple invitations from the Senate Select Committee on Foreign Interference through Social Media, which commences on Tuesday.

The committee aims to shed light on the potential impact of "foreign interference" through social media platforms in Australian politics. Executives from TikTok, Twitter and LinkedIn are scheduled to attend the hearing, but WeChat, which lacks permanent staff in Australia, cannot be compelled to appear due to its headquarters being situated in Shenzhen, China.

In response to the situation, a Tencent spokesperson stated on Monday, "WeChat takes compliance seriously in all the markets where we operate. We look forward to continuing engagement with stakeholders in Australia."

WeChat has come under scrutiny in Australia due to allegations of its influence over Chinese-Australians. According to a survey conducted by Sydney-based think tank Lowy Institute in April, WeChat ranked as the third most popular social media platform used daily by Chinese-Australians, following YouTube and Facebook.

The survey found that approximately 76 percent of Australians born in China reported using WeChat every day, with the app playing a central role as a news source for the Chinese-Australian community.

By the end of 2020, WeChat had amassed 690,000 users in Australia, serving as a vital communication tool for Chinese diasporas worldwide in connecting with their families and friends.

However, WeChat's role as a platform for news and opinions has attracted scrutiny from Australian politicians, particularly amidst strained relations between Beijing and Canberra. Concerns over national security have led to calls for a ban on WeChat and government agencies like the Department of Defence have imposed restrictions on the app's usage among their personnel.

  • WeChat declines invitation to testify before Australia's Senate Committee on Foreign Interference.

  • The hearing aims to address concerns about foreign interference through social media in Australian politics.

  • WeChat's influence on Chinese-Australians sparks controversy.

Source: SCMP

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