WhatsApp, the Facebook-owned social messaging platform has been blocked in China. Security experts confirmed to The New York Times that the Chinese government has completely blocked WhatsApp after briefly stopping video chats and photo sharing service on the platform. WhatsApp users in mainland China are now restricted from even sending text messages.
The move will come as a big setback to Facebook, which has been blocked in the country since 2009. Other Facebook-owned services like Messenger and Instagram are also unavailable in the country. WhatsApp was the last Facebook-owned product to work in China and CEO Mark Zuckerberg is said to be pursuing plans to re-enter the country.
Nadim Kobeissi, an applied cryptographer at Symbolic Software, a Paris-based research start-up says his firm noticed disruptions in the service on Wednesday and by Monday, the service was completely blocked. "The blocking of WhatsApp text messages suggests that China's censors may have developed specialized software to interfere with such messages, which rely on an encryption technology that is used by few services other than WhatsApp," Kobeissi told the Times.
China blocking WhatsApp will benefit WeChat, which remains one of the most popular messaging apps in the country. WeChat claims to have over 963 million users and it is said to be easily monitored by the Chinese authorities. China has been heightening its censorship in the past few months and has asked some of the popular services like Baidu, Tencent and Weibo to censor banned contents on their platforms.
It even asked Apple to remove VPN apps from App Store and WhatsApp's end-to-end encryption may have caused Chinese authorities to block the service altogether. The blocking of WhatsApp coincides with upcoming Communist Party gathering and WhatsApp is yet to acknowledge or confirm the disruption of its service.