Nuno Alberto
Culture

WeChat is Banning Accounts Associated with NFTs

BY Jex Exmundo

June 28, 2022

Popular Chinese social media platform WeChat has updated its terms of use and will now ban accounts that engage in “virtual currency or digital collection business” — i.e. NFTs and crypto. Under the app’s illegal operations clause, this type of communication is considered “violating content.”

The extent of the ban

Following China’s outright ban on crypto trading and mining in 2021, many speculated they’d clamp down on NFTs next. They’ve already started by discouraging users from trading or speculating on NFTs, as well as imposing on them to use the Chinese Yuan — a fiat currency — when making NFT purchases. With this latest news, yet another problem has been mounted on the still-growing Chinese NFT market and community.

Due to this new ruling, public WeChat accounts centered around crypto and NFT trading, financing, and even discussion will be subject to a ban and account restrictions once discovered until the offending behaviors are rectified.

Yes, even discussion. As found in the app’s updated terms of use, behaviors including — but not limited to — “[providing] information intermediary and pricing services for [crypto] transactions” may warrant bans for the account/s involved. Knowing China’s history of surveillance on its citizens — particularly on the internet — and WeChat’s messaging services lacking end-to-end encryption, arranging a secondary sale of an NFT could very well see the two parties involved in a lot of trouble, to say the least.

Why this matters

So why is this such a big deal? For the uninitiated, the internet in China is a walled garden of sorts. Among the list of websites banned in China are sites most internet users simply can’t live without. For instance, Google, Instagram, Reddit, YouTube, and Wikipedia — among scores of other sites ranging from DeviantArt (of all things) to the New York Times — are all banned in China. As for Facebook and Twitter, these sites are only accessible to tourists currently staying in Hainan. Although you can use a VPN to get around what some call the Great Firewall, typically only expats employ this practice to use the internet as they see fit. For most mainland Chinese nationals, WeChat is enough.

That’s because WeChat isn’t just a messaging app. To a large chunk of its over 1 billion active users, WeChat is the internet. Aside from its core functionality as a messaging platform, Tencent’s app is also a social media platform, digital payment platform, and a burgeoning online business platform to boot.

However, China doubling down on its stance on NFTs may prove to be an interesting story to follow for members of the NFT community in other parts of the world. Can China’s NFT community and market survive if there aren’t any profits to be made? We’ll have to wait and see how the biggest NFT players in the Asian superpower respond to this latest hurdle.

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