The very cute Naver LINE messaging app has stepped up its promotion for its business in Hong Kong and Asia Pacific Region. LINE has released many TV commercials and advertisement in Hong Kong targeting the Hong Kongers and also potentially the Mainland Chinese market. However, lately there are news surrounding its censorship over users communication (text messages) in Mainland China. Although the censorship and blockage of certain sensitive words only apply in Mainland China users, another Taiwanese developer found similar codes in the LINE app that supports Traditional Chinese filtering, meaning that the LINE is actually able to block sensitive material using certain censorship mechanism.
According to the Taiwanese developer, LINE searches the keywords on your smart phone for comparing against a list of web-updated sensitive keywords in their severs, if those keywords appear in the text message, LINE will display an error message reminding users to edit before sending it. For example, in the image below the user input the names some high end officials such as Xi Jin-ping, Bo Xi-lai…etc. LINE will block the user from sending these names out by reminding the user to edit it. ‘’
RingHK, a mobile news site in Hong Kong enquired LINE’s Public Relations Department with regards to the matter surrounding sensitive text message. LINE has officially responded Simplified-Chinese version of LINE serviced in mainland China is different from the global version of LINE. LINE has been released as a localized version in mainland China as “LIANWO(连我)” since December 2012. LIANWO determines the nationality of a new user based on the country code and/or SIM card number, so global users outside Mainland China who use LINE’s simplified-Chinese version are not affected. LIANWO has been optimized to serve the local environment in accordance with the mainland China’s standards, which does not affect the global service of LINE. In addition, LINE does not collect or store any information from its users and maintains a global-level of security standards.
To sum up the findings, LINE has a different version in Mainland China, called LIANWO since Dec 2012. Actually, I have also been to Mainland China with my LINE app installed in Hong Kong. I haven’t tried typing in politically sensitive words but indeed the LINE app worked fine for me. I made voice calls and text messages through it without any error occurring. In fact, the LINE has international and a China version to meet the Chinese standard. So it does censor in the Chinese version but it does not do anything with the international version. No matter what, what matters the most is LINE reassures people that they do not collect or store any information from its users and maintain a very high security standards. For people outside China, the information censorship does not apply to you.
As we have always been emphasizing a message: you should not disclose any private, personal or classified information using any kinds of social media including messaging application such as WhatsAppp, LINE, Skype, Viber…etc. We do not know what’s behind the servers and different countries do have different standard of collecting personal data and communication. Especially we should not key in passwords, credit card numbers or any personal information that would relate to your loss.
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September 9, 2014
April 18, 2013
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