WhatsApp has recently been banned by the Chinese government. The New York Times revealed that WhatsApp had been “broadly disrupted in China.” TechCrunch received reports that while numerous clients lost access starting Sunday night, some people can at present send and get WhatsApp messages. WhatsApp declined to comment.
WhatsApp’s capacity to send recordings, photographs, and documents was blocked in China in July, though it was unblocked again fourteen days later. It is conceivable that the ban is in expectation of the 19th Communist Party’s congress that will be held in Beijing a month from now. WhatsApp may have been focused on encryption features needed by administrations like Skype and Apple’s FaceTime, which are allowed in China.
China tightens its internet protocols in major Communist Party meetings. “Typically, in the run up to Party Congresses, we’ve seen blocking, filtering, and 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. However, the latest move against WhatsApp is also part of a wider trend of tightening controls and restrictions under President Xi Jinping,” Segal said. China has reinstated WhatsApp access after past disruptions.
If the ban is lifted, it could prove to be just a show of power by the Chinese government, meant to encourage users that depend on encrypted messaging services in China. However, if the ban is not lifted, it could upset organizations that depend on WhatsApp for communication. It would also mean a major step backwards for parent organization Facebook’s relations with China.
According to Timothy Heath, Senior International Defense Research Analyst at the RAND Corporation, the Chinese government doesn’t appreciate WhatsApp’s strong encryption. “The government wants to monitor Internet communications, and therefore it’s trying to steer its people to use technology that can be accessed and monitored by the government,” Heath told CNN Tech. WeChat, a well-known chat app with countless clients in China, advised clients to follow government demands for data.