China blocks WhatsApp in latest online crackdown: report

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China is blocking the messaging app WhatsApp ahead of a large Communist Party meeting slated for October, according to The New York Times.

Next month, Beijing will host the Communist Party’s congress in order to choose its leadership, an event that occurs once every five years. President Xi Jinping is expected to maintain his spot, but it’s still unclear who will accompany him on the Standing Committee of the Politburo, the Communist Party’s highest-ranking group.

“Losing contact with my clients, forced back to the age of telephone and email for work now,” one user, cited by The New York Times, complained on Weibo, a Chinese digital platform similar to Twitter.

“Even WhatsApp is blocked now? I’m going to be out of business soon,” another person wrote on Weibo, according to the Times.


Beijing’s latest move is another blow for Facebook, the owner of WhatsApp, which has been pushing to re-enter the Chinese market after the social media website was banned in 2009. WhatsApp had worked in the country until July, when the government censored the app with its “Great Firewall” internet censorship system.

At the time, censorship of WhatsApp was limited to photos, video, audio chats file-sharing and voice chats. Users could still send text communications and the restrictions were lifted after several weeks, according to the Times. Now, however, WhatsApp users in China can no longer send texts, though the app is partially accessible to some users in some parts of the country.

Experts say part of the reason WhatsApp may not have been previously blocked was because China didn’t have the ability to block end-to-end encryption, which is what the app provides. Experts think the Chinese government now has that ability, according to the newspaper.

The ban has pushed many users to switch to WeChat, a less secure messaging app in China, which the government can more easily monitor.


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