To commemorate Martin Luther King Jr.’s birth anniversary on Monday, Chinese internet heavyweight Tencent Holdings Ltd. designed a function that allowed WeChat app users who sent a message with the English phrase “civil rights” to see a screen full of fluttering American flags.
The animation was only meant to be available to WeChat users in the United States. However, a technical error allowed users elsewhere to see the US flags on their screen, including in China, causing consternation among many Chinese internet users.
Tencent’s WeChat team on Monday issued an apology for the blunder on their official microblog, Reuters reported.
China operates the world’s most sophisticated internet censorship mechanism, known as the Great Firewall. Censors maintain a tight grip on what can and can’t be published online, especially anything seen undermining the ruling Communist Party.
“We request everybody’s forgiveness,” Tencent said in its post, titled ‘An explanation’. “WeChat’s path to internationalization isn’t easy… We will try even harder!”
Many Chinese WeChat users were outraged by the “civil rights” function.
“If there’s a function for Martin Luther King’s birthday, what are you going to do for Mao Zedong’s and Zhou Enlai’s?” wrote one microblog user. “Rubbish WeChat.”
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