New Delhi: Chinese internet giant Tencent has closed 20 million accounts on its messaging app WeChat, 5% of the total, because they offered prostitution services, according to Chinese state media, who dubbed the campaign operation “Thunder Strike.”
WeChat is a three-and-a-half-year-old micro-messaging site with an active-user base that just surpassed 396 million people—meaning Tencent shut down 5% of active accounts.
The purging of accounts came in response to a May government crackdown specifically against the platform.
Many use the app as a news source in a heavily censored web environment, but the government said it also being used for harmful practices ranging from fraud to terrorism to prostitution.
Authorities had promised to “hold service providers responsible if they do not fulfill their duty,” according to Chinese state media.
Prostitution, which is technically illegal but largely condoned and rampant in China, has been increasingly moving from red-light districts on to the internet and mobile phones, as it has around the world.
And WeChat, which offers both private messaging and payment services, has been right at the center of that move—last year, a video went viral that showed a woman teaching another how to use WeChat and other chat apps to attract customers for sex work.
Still, aside from the arrest of 11 people in an alleged prostitution ring operating on WeChat last year, there have been no widespread crackdowns on selling sex on the messaging platform until now.