China Blocks WhatsApp One Month before Communist Party Meeting in October

Published Date : Sep 26, 2017

WhatsApp, a popular messaging app, has been blocked in China since September 23 as suggested by network measurement data, according to the Open Observatory of Network Interference (OONI). However, Twitter public reports have indicated that the app became inaccessible to some users in the country on September 19. This move of the Chinese government has been made ahead of the sensitive 19th National Congress of the reigning Communist Party. In the lead-up to its Communist Party meetings, China has been regularly tightening internet restrictions, this time by censoring the encrypted messenger.

China does Not Appreciate WhatsApp using Strong Encryption

Any content that deems damaging has been usually censored by the Chinese government with the help of its massive internet filtering tool called the Great Firewall. Council on Foreign Relations’ Digital and Cyberspace Policy Program director, Adam Segal has stated that the recent move to block WhatsApp is part of the broader trend of restrictions and narrowing controls under the direction of President Xi Jinping. Moving forward, the lifting up of the block on the messaging app looks doubtful, as per Segal, although the nation has reinstated access in the past.

The restrictions appear to have targeted only China-based users. Users on international data plans and SIM cards have not been experiencing the disruptions. The WhatsApp block in China could further unsettle owner Facebook’s lengthy efforts to make services available in the country. Yet some people in the country try to gain access to such social media sites by using tools that camouflage internet traffic to dodge censorship or with the help of vertical private networks (VPNs). However, the Chinese government has been cracking down on VPNs in 2017.