Reports: Chinese censors block WhatsApp after several disruptions
China has blocked the Facebook-owned messaging platform WhatsApp in its territory, security experts have confirmed. WhatsApp users in China, who were barred from sending or receiving images and videos over the past few months, confirmed that text messages have now been blocked. The restrictive China has a history of blocking social media platforms and other services such as Wikipedia, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Google.
"This is not the typical technical method in which the Chinese government censors something," said Nadim Kobeissi, an applied cryptographer at Symbolic Software. Kobeissi said the latest WhatsApp ban indicates that Chinese censors have developed software which is interfering with text messages. He said WhatsApp message transfers initially started facing disruptions on September 20 and were 'comprehensively' blocked on September 25.
Importantly, the WhatsApp ban coincides with the 19th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party. Despite the WhatsApp ban, services provided by US tech companies such as Microsoft's Skype continue to run. Unlike WhatsApp, Skype doesn't allow end-to-end encryption, possibly why Chinese censors haven't blocked it. However, Apple's FaceTime is allowed in China despite having end-to-end encryption.
The WhatsApp ban comes as good news for its Chinese competitor WeChat, which has pledged to provide the Chinese government with personal data of users. WeChat has 963 million active users and will look to grow amid the WhatsApp ban. However, a Wall Street Journal reporter in Beijing said WhatsApp is back up, indicating that the ban could've been temporary.