WeChatSCOPE

Dive into Data

About 

WeChatscope aims to make censored articles of WeChat’s public accounts in China open access. The project is designed and developed by a research team at the Journalism and Media Studies Centre (JMSC), The University of Hong Kong, monitoring a list of selected WeChat public accounts and detecting removed contents.

The WeChatscope team develops a system to “scrape” data from the application interface of WeChat. An automated “crawler” revisits published articles and records the contents. Once an article is detected as censored, the copy in the database is restored. Public access to the censored data is enabled by application programming interface (API) and data visualization page.

When you use the data of the WeChatscope project, please cite the following reference.

Fu KW & Yun T. (2018). Tracking Censorship of WeChat Public Accounts in China: A Computational Social Science’s Approach, Presented at the 2018 International Conference on Computational Social Science,12-15 July 2018, Evanston, Illinois, United States.

What is WeChat Public Account?

WeChat (微信) is the leading social media application in China and it was launched by the Chinese social app giant Tencent in 2012. Tencent announced in 2018 there were more than 1,000 million monthly active users. WeChat offers a service called public accounts (also referred to as official accounts) to which WeChat users can subscribe. Functioning in a similar way to Facebook fan pages, public accounts are utilised by companies, organisations, governments, media, celebrities, and individuals to broadcast information and engage their target users. With a core of social and mobile communication functions, WeChat public account contributors cover a wide range of topics such as individual voices, personal stories, social issues, lifestyle, culture, healthcare, sport, technology and breaking news. According to the data released at the 2018 We-Media Expo held in Xiamen, Fujian province, 500,000 WeChat official accounts are active every day with five billion daily page views.

APIs

Wechatscope APIs

Our APIs (application programming interfaces) allow you to obtain the past 7 days censored articles of WeChat public accounts for use in your own applications. If you are new to WeChatscope and want some help getting started with your research, here is the tutorial.

 

 

Method 1: Use our Base URL to search for records in past 7 days held by Wechatscope

1. Search our catalogue, using Base URL

httpss://wechatscope.jmsc.hku.hk/api/update_weixin_public_pretty?days={number}
Note: Curly braces { } indicate required item

Example: Access to censored articles from the last 2 days
https://wechatscope.jmsc.hku.hk/api/update_weixin_public_pretty?days=2

Example: Access to censored articles from the last 7 days
https://wechatscope.jmsc.hku.hk/api/update_weixin_public_pretty?days=7

When you search Base URL you will get a list of records that match your search time period. They are the latest censored WeChat articles either blocked by Chinese censors or removed by the account holders that they are not accessible from the internet.

Unfortunately, we are not available to support full-text keyword search at the moment.

2. Understanding your search results

The display for search results is made up of a list of record descriptions, ranked in a chronological order. The format is as follows:

 

  1. “url”: URL address of the WeChat article
  2. “title”: Title of the article in original language
  3. “title_eng”: Title of the article in English (Google Translate)
  4. “nickname”: Name of the WeChat public account
  5. “created_at”: Publish date of the article
  6. “Archive”: Webpage archive file name for the use of html API (see below)
  7. “censored_date”: Censored date of the article
  8. “censored_msg”: Reason for censorship according to WeChat
  9. “update_date”: the latest record updated time

Method 2: Use R code

# update_weixin API ————————————————————

library(httr)
library(data.table)

# The URL of the update_weixin API
url_wxupdate <- ‘https://wechatscope.jmsc.hku.hk/api/update_weixin_public?days=’

# Send API request: 2 = censored info in the past two days
ceninfo <- GET(url = paste0(url_wxupdate,2))

# Process content of the API request
ceninfo_content <- content(ceninfo)

# Convert the content to a dataframe
ceninfo_df <- rbindlist(ceninfo_content, fill=TRUE)

# ————————————————————————————-

How to view the censored articles?

You can view the articles by placing the {archive} of the article on the following link.

https://wechatscope.jmsc.hku.hk/api/html?fn={archive}
Note: Curly braces { } indicate required item

Example:
https://wechatscope.jmsc.hku.hk/api/html?fn=gh_a2c7ee2ac820_2018-06-15_2649207173_wCPEvKHmQk.y.tar.gz

Example:
https://wechatscope.jmsc.hku.hk/api/html?fn=gh_14ef0e644b8f_2018-06-17_2652779492_A0MVGgOrLz.y.tar.gz

 

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Contact us

3 + 3 =

WeChatscope
Journalism and Media Studies Centre
The University of Hong Kong
Pokfulam Road, Hong Kong

Acknowledgement:
This project is supported by the Open Technology Fund (No.: 1002-2017-023)

Have suggestions, ideas, or questions?
Email: wechatscope@gmail.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/wechatscope
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/wechatscope/