WeChat users are begging Tencent to restore their accounts after a Beijing protest

What most of the posts share is a sense of hopelessness. Since WeChat has become the super app used in almost every aspect of life, having your main account banned can be devastating. Weibo posts describe how the suspension of their WeChat accounts has made it difficult for people to receive messages from colleagues, potential employers or family members. Some write that I am now on the verge of depression.

Meanwhile, Tencent’s customer service Weibo accounts have only posted robotic responses in these posts asking them to provide more information. Two Weibo users told MIT Technology Review that posting with the hashtag didn’t help their appeal process at all.

Life after WeChat

Being banned from WeChat turns you into a ghost on the ubiquitous platform. “After losing WeChat, it seems like you have lost your connection to the world,” says Chen. “While you can still log into your WeChat account, read messages others have sent to you and group messages, and make digital payments, you can’t interact with them or reply.”

WeChat started allowing banned users to export their contacts in 2020, so if they choose to register a new account and start over, they can add their friends one by one. But for most WeChat users who have had the app for over a decade, that means manually adding thousands of contacts and explaining to them what they did to trigger the ban.

Chen used his old account for 11 years and had over 1,400 contacts. It took several hours to add 500 contacts from her backup account again. “When I was adding contacts again, I was asked if I was a scammer and the person called me to confirm. If I don’t have this person’s number or other confirmation methods, maybe they will immediately refuse to befriend me,” he says. Chen. Then, there are also the subscriptions, bookmarked content, public accounts that he follows and all the other information related to his WeChat account that he needs to migrate.

On Friday, after discussion of the protest subsided, many WeChat users were finding out who among their friends had been banned or helped their friends spread their new WeChat handles. A 2020 article that offered a useful checklist on what to do after being banned from WeChat got at least 70,000 views overnight.

Of course, the news of the suspensions also had a chilling effect, as people pondered whether to talk about the protest when it was now clear that he could ban their accounts. By holding people’s access to digital services hostage, the government has been able to hinder the dissemination of information and increase control.

Not everyone is willing to become hostages. While Tina has heard of the Weibo posts asking Tencent for help, that’s not what she wants to do. She understands the seriousness of political censorship and doesn’t think posting will help her.

So far, he’s only been telling his close contacts what happened and he’s going to try living his life without a WeChat account, at least for a while. She has always felt like spending too much time on social media apps, perhaps this forced leave could be a detox experience.

“A lot of people were registering their second account yesterday. But I told them I won’t. I want to give it a try. If, say, I can still live my life normally without WeChat, I think I can choose not to register another account, “she says.” I don’t think an individual should be tied this close. [WeChat] together.”

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