WhatsApp blocked in China ahead of Communist meeting

The messaging service can only be accessed by VPNs that can bypass the ‘Great Firewall’

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The mobile messaging platform WhatsApp has been “largely blocked” by the Chinese authorities in the run-up to a major Communist Party assembly next month, reports The New York Times.

The Facebook-owned service provides message encryption technology that’s unlikely to please the Chinese authorities, says The Daily Telegraph. China has a history of restricting access to websites and services through its Great Firewall, and has increased its online policing even further this year.

Some users in China have experienced “problems with the app for more than a week with services dropping in and out”, says BBC News.

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On some occasions, the news site says the app has been “completely blocked and only accessible via virtual private networks (VPNs) which circumvent China’s internet firewall.”

Nadim Kobeissi, an applied cryptographer at the startup firm Symbolic Software, told The Verge: “It seems that what we initially monitored as censorship of WhatsApp’s photo, video and voice note sharing capabilities in July has now evolved to what appears to be consistent text messaging blocking and throttling across China.”

Officials in China are believed to be behind the disruptions. Sky News says “censorship controls on social media are being tightened ahead of the Communist Party congress next month.”

President Xi Jinping is due to be appointed at the assembly to a second five-year term, the site says.

WhatsApp isn’t the first messaging platform to be blocked under China’s Great Firewall. The Verge says Facebook has been banned in China since 2009, as have Twitter and Google Docs.

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