A few months ago, guards of the Chinese Internet started to block sharing of videos, images and other files on WhatsApp. But text messages would go through until these restrictions were lifted recently. But a The New York Times report claims the messaging service now appears to be blocked in most parts of mainland China.
WhatsApp was the last available products from Facebook in the country, after the social media website was banned in year 2009. The image sharing app Instagram is also unavailable.
Though exact reason for the block is not know, it could be due to the strong end-to-end encryption that protects WhatsApp messages from being decoded or snooped upon.
But blocking of the app also points towards a more sophisticated blocking software that could interfere with highly encrypted messages and quite unique to WhatsApp. Apart from WhatsApp and Facebook, Twitter has also been blocked in China.
Infact, under the country’s policy of Internet censorship, search engine Google and all of its products like the Maps, YouTube and Gmail are permanently blocked.”I can live without the others [websites], but blocking WhatsApp is driving me crazy,” wrote a user on China’s social media website Weibo. People took to Weibo to express how blocking WhatsApp would be a loss. Many said it would affect their business.
China is clamping more of such Internet services that store user data outside of the country. New rules have been enforced which command the tech companies to keep only specific data and to be kept inside the country.
It is being said that some people might still be able to use WhatsApp but it’s working at a snail’s pace, which forced users to switch to other messaging services like WeChat. This has been the authorities’ way of censoring apps, particularly ones it cannot monitor.
WeChat being the alternate to WhatsApp or the Facebook messenger already finds its largest user base in the country. It crossed 600 million subscribers. A recent report from Android Authority claims that WeChat is sharing user data with the Chinese authorities, which includes names, contacts, email addresses, or even a user’s your exact location.