Joins long list of banned digital services including Google, DuckDuckGo, Twitter and SnapChat.
News emerges that the WhatsApp messaging app has once again found itself widely blocked across most of mainland China.
Sounds familiar? Well, yes, Chinese officials did the same thing in July, but unblocked the service after a few weeks. Back then, ordinary text messages sent via WhatsApp seemed to be mostly unaffected, but according to the Guardian newspaper “dozens of users in China complained of a total ban on sending any type of messages on WhatsApp“.
Banned in July, banned now. Why?
Who knows? That’s the real answer. China itself hasn’t officially said anything. But it’s a great question. Go you for having a razor sharp intellect and asking the questions that others dare not.
WhatsApp is most likely to have found itself blocked again however because of its always on by default strong encryption features. There’s also the fact that next month on the October 18th, the Chinese city of Beijing will play host to the ruling Communist Party’s congress to choose its leadership and plans for the next five years.
Banning WhatsApp also forces Chinese citizens to use less secure messaging apps instead, such as the hugely popular messaging app, WeChat, and others that the government can monitor with ease.
What has banning WhatsApp got to do with Mark Zuckerberg?
WhatsApp is owned by Facebook. WhatsApp is also the only current product that Facebook still has running in China. Facebook is banned as is Instagram. Zuckerberg has also reportedly been spending an awful lot of time in the last year learning Chinese. Zuckerberg has also allegedly been heavily lobbying Chinese officials to unban Facebook in China, which was blocked in 2009
Special Treatment for WhatsApp?
Yes. And also no. Should WhatsApp find the current ban becomes permanent, it would find itself joining a long and illustrious list of other banned apps and websites in China. Some of the more famous websites that have no access to China include Google, DuckDuckGo, 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, just as they did in July.
Will the Chinese people notice?
Some will, most won’t. Banning WhatsApp will probably a) not be reported and b) 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 solution 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.