A picture illustration shows a WeChat app icon in Beijing
WeChat app latest messenging service facing Russian ban Reuters

Russia's state media watchdog has restricted access to WeChat, the vastly popular instant messaging and payment platform developed by Chinese internet giant Tencent, after it failed to provide adequate contact information to the government department, it has emerged.

Tencent admitted on 6 May (Saturday), that WeChat had been blocked and said it was working with authorities to fix the situation. The service currently has over 800 million users and remains China's most populate chat application, however its reach in Russia remains unknown.

"We're experiencing a block and we're deeply sorry," a Tencent spokesperson said on a company blog, AFP reported after the ban was put in place.

"Russian regulations say online service providers have to register with the government but WeChat doesn't have the same understanding of the rules," they added.

In an email to the South China Morning Post, the spokesperson said: "In accordance with internet regulations in Russia, organisers of information distribution on the internet are required to notify relevant authorities of their activities upon request."

"We are in discussions with relevant authorities regarding the situation," the company said.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the Russian watchdog, known as Roskomnadzor, claimed the messaging service "did not provide its contact information" to authorities. Some believe the block may actually be linked to a 2014 law demanding data on Russian citizens be stored domestically.

"We are sending letters to iTunes and Google Play to block the app. We await a reaction. If it does not follow, access to the messaging will be limited through telecom providers," Vadim Ampelonsky, Roskomnadzor spokesperson, told state-run news outlet Novosti.

Last week, on 3 May, the authorities added BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) and Line to the list of banned services because they refused to register as information distributors.

"We systematically fill the register. Those who do not react, they get blocked", Ampelonsky said.

In January this year, Google and Apple were hit with requests from the Russia to remove LinkedIn from its application marketplaces following a ban in the country late last year. This came after the networking website confirmed a data breach which allegedly exposed Russian records.

In April, it emerged Roskomnadzor was drafting legislation to punish search engines and virtual private networks (VPNs) if they failed to enforce internet restrictions of the government. Tech companies that fail to comply may be shut down completely, the Vedomosti newspaper reported.

Of course, China is well-known for its own strict censorship regime on the internet.

Earlier this year it emerged that mainstream broadcasters in the country will soon need to obtain government licenses to operate legally. The new regulations, reportedly set to be effective from 1 June, will impact any digital news outlet that publishes to the internet or via social media platforms.