After blocking videos, voice chats and images on WhatsApp, China has now completely blocked texting on Facebook-owned instant messaging service. This is a strong message to CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who has been trying his best to re-enter the country.
Last month, it was reported that many forms of messages like video and voice messages sent from Beijing were all blocked and weren’t able to deliver without a virtual private network (VPN).
Over the last few months, there were a number of WhatsApp disruptions in China. Public reports on Twitter indicated that WhatsApp, became inaccessible for some people on September 19.
However, WhatsApp has not made an official announcement on the development.
According to a CNN report, the Open Observatory of Network Interference (OONI), a global observation network for detecting censorship, surveillance and traffic manipulation, suggested that Chinese internet service providers started blocking access to WhatsApp.
Facebook was banned in China in 2009, followed by its photo-sharing app Instagram in 2014.
Besides Facebook and Instagram, Youtube, Twitter, Google, and Gmail are all blocked in China. Some people access these services through virtual private networks (VPN), or with tools that disguise internet traffic to circumvent censorship. But the Chinese government has launched a crackdown on VPNs this year.
The most recent move to censor the encrypted messenger comes ahead of next month’s 19th National Congress of the ruling Communist Party. At the sensitive gathering, which takes place once every five years, the government will select leaders and determine policy priorities.
“Typically, in the run-up to Party Congresses, we’ve seen blocking, filtering, restrictions on the internet, and that’s what we’ve been seeing in the last couple months,” said Adam Segal, director of the Digital and Cyberspace Policy Program at the Council on Foreign Relations.
The Chinese government runs a huge apparatus of internet filters known as the Great Firewall, which it uses to censor content that it deems harmful.
China’s internet censorship has left big players like Facebook, Apple, and Google out of the huge Chinese market with an audience of more than 700 million internet users.