Tencent's WeChat has patched a bug that allowed external search engines to find some of its material, the owner of China's most popular messaging app said on Friday, raising worries about regulators' latest move to tighten down on the internet industry. According to Reuters tests, some of WeChat's information, including stories on its public accounts page, was momentarily available on Alphabet's Google and Microsoft's Bing in the previous few days, but not on China's major search engine Baidu.
Tencent's move sparked conjecture that it was in response to Chinese authorities' request for internet companies to demolish "walled gardens" in the country's cyberspace, which came amid a broad crackdown on the industry. "The official accounts' robotics protocol has flaws due to recent technology updates, causing external crawlers to scrape some of the official accounts' material," Tencent stated in a Chinese statement. "Since then, the loopholes have been closed." A request for comment from Google, Microsoft, and Baidu was not immediately returned. In China, Google is not available.
Users on developer forums first highlighted the possibility of finding WeChat content on Google and Bing. China's internet industry has traditionally been dominated by a small number of digital behemoths that have historically blocked rivals' connections and search crawlers, a tactic known as 'walled gardens.'
Chinese officials have been cracking down on this behavior in recent months as part of a comprehensive regulatory crackdown. China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) ordered enterprises to cease blocking connections last month, claiming that it had harmed customers' experiences and violated consumer rights.