A woman walks outside the headquarters of Tencent while looking at her phone.
SHENZHEN, CHINA - AUGUST 19: A woman walks outside the headquarters of Tencent on August 19, 2020 in Shenzhen, Guangdong Province of China. (Photo by VCG/VCG via Getty Images)
VCG / Contributor/ Getty Images

Tencent's messaging platform blocks LGBTQ search terms

QQ, the Tencent-owned messaging platform used by over half a billion in China, now blocks search terms like "gay" or "LGBTQ," Protocol has learned.

The software, available on both mobile and PC, allows users to find strangers and public group chats with key words. On Aug 30, searches with words like "gay," "lesbian," "LGBTQ," and "蕾丝" (a Chinese slang term for lesbian) come back with a notice: "Use the Internet in a civil manner. Say no to harmful information." QQ shows the same notice when users search for pornographic content. For other words like "同志 (Chinese slang for gay)," QQ only blocks the search results of group chats and doesn't show the notice.

This practice could have started as early as in March 2021, when a Zhihu user posted a screenshot of a similar search result.

QQ was Tencent's first massively popular product and enabled Tencent to rise to the rank of China's most successful tech companies. While its popularity has dimmed after WeChat was released, QQ still has the second-largest number of users among social media platforms in China.

Update, Aug. 31, 2021: Following publication of this story, QQ has resumed showing users with LGBTQ-themed words in their names, but still hides such public group chats. It has also replaced the "harmful information" message with one saying "no results found." The company has not replied to Protocol's request for comment.