China regulators should act further to free up apps’ access to rivals’ links -state paper

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FILE PHOTO: Illustration picture of WeChat app

BEIJING -Chinese internet platforms have not gone far enough in unblocking external links, as instructed by authorities, and relevant government bodies should take further action to intervene, a state-run newspaper said on Tuesday.

According to the Economic Information Daily, a newspaper owned by the Xinhua News Agency, this showed companies could not be relied on to carry out “self rectification”, and government bodies should take further actions including taking apps that do not follow the rules offline.

The article said Tencent’s WeChat users still cannot access full links from Weibo, while ecommerce platforms still block keywords including “Weixin”, WeChat’s Chinese name.

Reuters checks showed that Weibo links can be opened directly in a WeChat browser, but the content cannot be shown in Weibo’s mini app in WeChat.

China’s internet space is dominated by a handful of technology giants who have historically prevented rivals’ links and services from being shared on their platforms. The practice is often referred to as “walled gardens”.

Last month, regulators ordered firms to rectify the practice, which they said has affected users’ experience and damaged consumer rights, and gave the platforms a deadline on Sept. 17.

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Tencent said in September it would implement the changes in phases, starting with allowing users to access links in private, one-to-one chats once they upgraded to the latest version of WeChat.

Some services owned by Alibaba, including food delivery app, also started to allow WeChat Pay. However, Alibaba’s flagship ecommerce apps Taobao and Tmall have yet to add WeChat Pay as a payment option.

(Reporting by Yingzhi Yang and Brenda Goh; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell)