Shanghai (China): Facebook owned instant-messaging application, WhatsApp, has been largely blocked in China, media reports have said.
The disruption in the app comes as the Chinese government steps up security surveillance ahead of a Communist Party meeting next month.
Users of WhatsApp in China have faced interruptions over the past few months as users were unable to send or receive images and videos, but the current ban has been confirmed to apply to text messages as well.
According to experts the disruptions in WhatsApp’s messaging services had begun on 20 September and was ‘comprehensively’ blocked on Monday, 25 September.
Nadim Kobeissi, an applied cryptographer at Symbolic Software confirmed to The New York Times in a report that the service was affected in the country and it included text messages as well.
“This is not the typical technical method in which the Chinese government censors something,” Kobeissi said.
The ban on text messages on WhatsApp could mean that China’s censors have developed a specific software to interfere with these messages, Kobeissi added.
The country has already blocked social media websites like Wikipedia, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and a number of other Google’s services. The New York Times report states that video chats and other modes of file-sharing on WhatsApp were being blocked in mid-July but text messages were allowed to be sent.
According to Timothy Heath, senior international defence research analyst at the RAND Corporation, the Chinese government does not like that WhatsApp uses strong encryption.
“The government wants to monitor internet communications, and therefore it’s trying to steer its people to use technology that can be accessed and monitored by the government,” Heath told CNN.
WeChat, a popular chatting app in China, earlier this month notified its users of updated policies which made it to comply with Chinese governments requests for information.