No More WhatsApp in China – Blocked Like the Rest of Em!

China believes in complete control of its country, its people and the technology they are allowed to access. So once more in a move of Internet censorship, China blocks WhatsApp, the instant messaging app used by 1 billion people across the world. It joins the block list of Google and all of its services, Facebook, Yahoo, Wikipedia, Pinterest, Dailymotion, Vimeo, Dropbox, SoundCloud and dozens of other high-ranking websites.

How Did WhatsApp Get Added to the List?

There are two explanations to this – one is the technical side of the story which states that China’s recently upgraded firewall blocked the NoiseSocket protocol used by WhatsApp to deliver texts. The firewall also blocked the HTTPS/TLS connection that WhatsApp uses to send photos and videos and so what started off as disrupted services have become a complete block.

The second explanation of the block is related to a communist party’s fear of end-to-end hidden communication system. WhatsApp’s strongest feature is the end-to-end encryption which it released last year. Following the release, any message sent between two encrypted device remains protected and no one, not even WhatsApp itself can decrypt the messages. This means the Chinese government cannot actually pry on its citizens and for a communist party, this means danger. WhatsApp’s Chinese counterpart is the WeChat which provides all users’ personal data to the Chinese government and already has 963 million active users and now with it’s one and only foreign competitor gone stands to receive the benefit.

China’s Internet Censorship Policy

China strongly believes in preserving its culture from the intrusions of the outside world. This explains their strength and national unity. The country has been busy blocking everything that comes from America – from books to movies, tech to social media and so much more. The most aggressive control, however, is in the form of Internet censorship for which the Chinese government has more than sixty regulations in place. State-owned ISPs, companies, and organizations are required to follow the regulations and ensure full compliance. This notorious censorship system earns the reputation of being the world’s most advanced, powerful and extensive internet control system. The government doesn’t stop at mere blocking. They go as far as monitoring user data, user information and Internet access of individuals which resulted in the largest number of imprisoned journalists and cyber-dissidents in the world (as reported by Amnesty International).

You’d think those journalists may have to commit grave crimes to get noticed by the government and then imprisoned. Well, not actually. Crimes range from signing online petitions, communicating with groups abroad, fighting corruption, giving opinions on problems that affect people in general (pollution, ethnic and racial issues) and blogging about the problems. The Chinese people are not able to use Google search, Gmail, Facebook or any other American tech, BUT they do get replica versions of these services. So you have China’s search engine Baidu, China’s Facebook is Weibo, China’s WhatsApp is WeChat, China’s YouTube is Youku-Tudou and so on. Anything that cannot be monitored or controlled is not allowed in China. On the contrary, American tech companies believe in freedom of speech, protection of user data and non-interference of the government which is why our tech products are not easily monitored or broken into.

In a twist of irony then, Americans create, China blocks and replicate. Who’s in power here?

Farah tries to keep up with the fast-paced tech world by writing about it. She covers latest tech news and writes informative pieces to help her readers make informed decisions about their tech preferences.