Published: Tue, September 26, 2017
World | By Paul Elliott

China disrupts WhatsApp ahead of Communist meeting

China disrupts WhatsApp ahead of Communist meeting

Public reports on Twitter indicate that WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook, became inaccessible for some people a week ago.

In China on Tuesday, users reported intermittent service on the messaging platform. But he said that some WhatsApp users might still manage to communicate.

While the country is known for having rigid internet censorship, it's been ramping up its efforts even more in preparation for the 19th Communist Party congress this fall, where the government is slated to choose its new leaders. The censorship has prompted many in China to switch to communications methods that function smoothly and quickly but that are easily monitored by Chinese authorities, like the WeChat app of the Chinese Internet company Tencent, which is based in Shenzhen.

The party is anticipated that liberal citizens might make use of WhatsApp's encrypted messaging service to spread anti-government propaganda through videos, graphic images and text quotes and possibly attempt to disrupt the event.

WhatsApp users on worldwide SIM cards and data plans have not experienced the same problems.

China's internet regulator did not respond to a request for comment.

Facebook-owned social media messenger WhatsApp, which was temporarily blocked in China earlier this year, has once again come under the scrutiny of the ruling communist party.

China has tightened online policing this year, enacting new rules that require tech companies to store user data inside the country as well as restrictions on what is permissible content.

The Open Observatory of Network Interference (OONI), a global observation network for detecting censorship, surveillance and traffic manipulation, suggested that Chinese internet service providers started blocking access to WhatsApp on September 23.

In mid-July, Chinese censors began blocking video chats and the sending of photos and other files using WhatsApp, and they stopped many voice chats, as well.

According to Timothy Heath, senior worldwide defence research analyst at the RAND Corporation, the Chinese government does not like that WhatsApp uses strong encryption.

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