A few years ago, a woman who lives in Switzerland traveled to China to see her mother. She sent an email to a friend of hers in China asking that friend to contact her after she arrived so they could see each other. The friend sent her an email, but that friend never got a reply. Later, the woman called to say that she could not access her Gmail account. It was disastrous for her since her ability to communicate was seriously impacted as a result. Of course, this did not effect only her. Anyone who relies on Gmail still faces the same problem while traveling in China.
Days ago, the popular messenger app Whatsapp started to undergo a fate similar to the other popular services blocked in China, including Google, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
WhatsApp is Facebook’s instant messaging app that can still be used in China; however, part of its functions were blocked on July 19. The block not only affected China, but also stopped users around the globe from being able to send or receive images and videos to and from China. In some extreme cases, the sending and receiving of text messages were also affected.
According to a New York Times report, China uses the Great Firewall of China to monitor and filter the flow of information over the Internet. Blocking WhatsApp is the latest example of its enforcement.
China has stepped up its monitoring of the Internet in recent weeks as videos were deleted on sites showing popular foreign TV shows, and tools for avoiding that monitoring system were more frequently interrupted.
The act is seen as a means to tighten up Internet control before the upcoming Beidaihe Meeting, an annual meeting where Communist Party leaders discuss policy, and the 19th National People’s Congress.
Nadim Kobeissi, a cryptography expert, stated an analysis showed that the Great Firewall of China is imposing censorship on and selectively monitoring WhatsApp. The coming days will reveal whether the measure against WhatsApp images and videos is temporary, or if it is a prologue to a total blockade of WhatsApp in China.