China Causing WhatsApp Problems

In China, the highly popular messaging app WhatsApp is suffering major disruption problems to its service.

According to the group Open Observatory of Network Interference or OONI, measurement data of networks has suggested that internet providers in China began blocking access on Saturday to WhatsApp.

Public reports across Twitter show that WhatsApp, which Facebook owns, was inaccessible for some in China as long as one week ago.

On Tuesday in China, users reported service was intermittent on the messaging app.

Over the last few months, several disruptions of WhatsApp have taken place in China. The messaging app did not comment about its status in China when a message requesting the same was left on Monday.

The recent move to have the encrypted messenger service censored comes just prior to the ruling Communist Party’s October 19th National Congress.

At the gathering, which only takes place once during a five-year period, the government selects its leaders and determines its policy priorities.

On a regular basis China tightens its restrictions on Internet during the run-up to any major meetings of the Communist Party.

Typically, in its preparations for Party Congresses, there is often filtering, restrictions, and blocking on Internet, and that is what has been seen the past few months, said one analyst who works for an agency that oversees cyberspace and digital use in foreign countries.

The government of China runs a big apparatus of filters for Internet content called the Great Firewall that is used by rulers to censor content that it considers harmful.

However, its latest move causing problems for WhatsApp is part of its wider trend to tightening controls and its restrictions under current President Xi Jinping. China has always reinstated access to WhatsApp following past disruptions.

Users of WhatsApp on SIM cards as well as data plans that are international have not had the same disruption problems. The restrictions it appears are targeted specifically to users that are China-based.

The difficulties of WhatsApp in China cast a big shadow over the longtime efforts of Mark Zuckerberg the CEO of Facebook to make services of Facebook available to people living in China.

Large U.S. companies have not been allowed in the Chinese market for a number of years including Facebook, Twitter, Google and Instagram.

Some people are able to access the service via virtual private networks, or using tools that disguise traffic on Internet to circumvent China’s censorship. However, the government in China has cracked down on VPNs.

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