Tencent blames WeChat access for search engines on flaw

(Bloomberg) – Tencent Holdings Ltd. said loopholes created in a recent technology upgrade have made content from its closed WeChat ecosystem available on search engines.

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While the company said the vulnerability had already been patched, searches conducted Friday afternoon using Google, which is stuck in mainland China, and Microsoft Corp.’s Bing. have always been able to locate social media posts from WeChat. Articles about the super app were previously only accessible through its native search feature or the smaller Sogou engine, controlled by Tencent, and they remain unavailable on the country’s leading researcher, Baidu Inc.

“Due to a recent technology upgrade on the platform, loopholes were created in the protocols of public accounts on WeChat and allowed external bots to access some of the content,” Tencent said in a press release on Friday.

A representative from Baidu confirmed that its search engine still could not access WeChat content, while representatives of Google and Microsoft of Alphabet Inc. did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The appearance of WeChat content on major search engines fueled speculation that Beijing had won yet another victory in its efforts to break down barriers online. The Chinese tech industry watchdog plans to ask media companies, including Tencent and ByteDance Ltd., to allow their competitors to access their content in search results, Bloomberg News reported Monday.

Regulators’ deliberations are currently focused on WeChat’s public accounts, which allow individuals and businesses to post on everything from movies to football and foreign policy. This massive content library is blocked by search engines operated by Baidu and ByteDance and any liberalization would have shaken the internet advertising arena.

Beijing has declared war on China’s so-called walled gardens as part of a campaign to rule over big tech. He accuses a handful of companies of unreasonably blocking competitors to protect their respective spheres: Tencent in social media via WeChat, Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. in e-commerce with Taobao and Tmall and, more recently, ByteDance in video and news via Douyin and Toutiao. .

The country’s online giants have taken steps to lower some of these barriers. In September, Tencent allowed WeChat users to connect to external services from competitors such as Alibaba, and the e-commerce giant later this month added WeChat’s payment system to some of its apps.

(Updates with Tencent’s statement from the first paragraph.)

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Rosemary S. Bishop