The Chinese government has partially blocked WhatsApp messages in the country, reportedly as a part of a wider effort by China to suppress messaging apps there that do not yield to its surveillance policy. Several users of the popular Facebook-owned messaging app have taken to various social networking sites to disclose instances of undelivered messages containing photos and audio. According to reports, the blockages started on Monday night in Beijing, and it looks like Facebook Inc. is not responsible for the outages, though the company has yet to release a public statement to shed light on the trouble. The crackdown took place just months before the 19th Communist Party Congress to be held in Beijing in the autumn of this year, so it seems like the WhatsApp incident is somehow connected to the government’s preparation for that event.
While the reason behind the WhatsApp blockage in China remains unclear, the government has been known to crack down on social media and messaging platforms where sensitive political content are being shared. Therefore, it is easy to see why WhatsApp has been included in the list of blocked online services in the country now. Furthermore, WhatsApp messages are encrypted, which means China’s censorship tool called The Great Firewall could not infiltrate content being sent and received via the platform because of its end-to-end encryption. China is not the first country to block access to WhatsApp for political reasons. In May last year, Brazil also blocked the service for 72 hours in an incident that was believed to be connected to an ongoing case in the state court of Sergipe.
In recent times, China also clamped down on other popular social media and instant messaging platforms, including Kakao Talk, Line, Gmail, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and more. And it is not difficult to understand why those services are being blocked in the country, though it is not clear whether the latest case of the WhatsApp blockage is a temporary matter or if it would be lifted once the end-to-end encryption feature is removed from the service. Thanks to The Great Firewall, China is able to monitor and clamp down on services that it deems could pose a threat to the political status of the country’s ruling party.