RSF warns journalists about Chinese propaganda app that may spy on them

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) warns journalists about Chinese President Xi Jinping's propaganda app, which could be used as a spying tool for the regime.

The mobile app "Study Xi, strengthen the country", a vehicle for Chinese President Xi Jinping's propaganda, could have backdoors enabling the execution of commands and the collection of personal information without the user's knowledge. According to an analysis published last month by German cybersecurity firm Cure 53, the application that is designed by e-commerce giant Alibaba for the Chinese Communist Party has the capability to modify files, download apps, make phone calls and turn on the device’s microphone, among other threatening features.

"We highly recommend journalists to avoid downloading this app that can compromise their security and that of their sources," insists Cédric Alviani, head of Reporters Without Borders (RSF) East Asia Bureau. "If it is absolutely necessary to install it, we advise to do so on a specific device dedicated to this sole purpose and which does not contain any sensitive information.''

By the end of this year, Chinese journalists will be required to pass a mandatory loyalty test on the President and the Party’s teachings through this application in order to obtain or renew their press credentials.

Released last February, this smartphone app provides access to a wide array of propaganda documents and tests the user’s understanding of the regime’s propaganda with a game-like system of points and rewards. According to the Open Technology Fund, the number of downloads may have already reached 600 million.

China fell this year to the 177th rank out of 180 countries and territories in the RSF World Press Freedom Index, only two places ahead of North Korea.

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Updated on 24.10.2019