China’s ongoing clampdown on cyberspace has seen WhatsApp, the messaging service run by Facebook, periodically unavailable in the past few weeks, while certain gifs using images of President Xi Jinping cannot be posted to group chats on messenger app WeChat.

China’s Internet regulator, in a statement to Reuters, said the government had the legal right to prevent the spread of “violent, terrorist and other illegal information”.

“As a well-known global app, WhatsApp should really proactively take steps to block the dissemination and spread of illegal information,” it said, without elaborating or making a specific mention of WeChat.

New limits have been placed on discussion in private group chats. Rules released at the beginning of September make companies and group owners accountable for breaches of content rules.

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