Popular messaging service Whatsapp has largely been blocked in China.
This is not new though as China has a history of blocking or limiting access to many social networks such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and many other Google services. While Whatsapp was previously partially-blocked (functions such as video chats weren’t working), the whole service doesn’t seem to be working this time around.
Since Sunday (24th September), Whatsapp users in mainland China have been experiencing heavy disruption. Now even text messages are completely blocked. The block has caused many Chinese users to switch to WeChat, another popular messaging app in the country. However, the chat service is known to provide all user’s personal data to the Chinese government.
So why the censorship?
It is understood that the heightened censorship coincides with the 19th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party taking place next month. The sensitive gathering happens once every 5 years where the government selects leaders and determine policy priorities.
Of course, people can still have access to the aforementioned social networks through virtual private networks (VPN) or other tools that help disguise internet traffic. Having said that, the Chinese government has launched a crackdown on VPNs too.
It remains to be seen if the block on Whatsapp will be lifted moving forward.