Is WhatsApp being censored in China? If news reports and some users in the country are to be believed, it might be.
According to the BBC, many users have reported that voice messages and media files such as videos and pictures will no longer send to their intended destinations without the help of a Virtual Private Network (VPN).
The Guardian newspaper also reported that Chinese authorities had partially blocked the Facebook-owned popular encrypted messaging service. Ordinary text messages sent via WhatsApp are apparently unaffected. But “dozens of users in China [have] complained of a total ban on sending any type of messages on WhatsApp”.
Worries have risen since then that the partial blocking of WhatsApp may be just the opening move by Chinese state authorities to Permaban (Permanent ban) the app.
Special Treatment for WhatsApp?
No. Should WhatsApp find itself blocked or banned entirely from China, it would find itself joining a long and illustrious list of other banned apps and websites. Some of the more famous websites that have no access to China Facebook itself, Google, Duck Duck Go, The New York Times, The Economist, the BBC,Twitter, and SnapChat. (From what I can gather, literally all porn sites are blocked without exception as well. That’s of no real relevance here. I’m just saying.)
Chinese authorities have yet to confirm if they are indeed blocking or attempting to block WhatsApp.
Why Block WhatsApp?
It’s all part of a move by the Chinese Government to increase online censorship in the run up to the next Communist Party’s congress, where current premier Xi Jinping China has one of the world’s largest and most advanced censorship systems in existence. Xi, who came to power five years ago, has consistently pushed for tighter government controls on what information from outside of China is allowed in.
Will the Chinese people notice?
Some will, most wont, even for those who use the internet a lot. WhatsApp is a statistically minor app in China. The domestically owned WeChat boasts more than 900,000,000 users. But the US App has become the go to app for Chinese activists and citizens concerned about privacy, or simply communicating with business colleagues abroad. But while WeChat conversations are routinely monitored by the State, WhatsApp’s messages are encrypted by default.