It would appear that WhatsApp has caused China enough trouble that the government has blocked the app’s usage entirely. This comes after weeks of smaller blocks within the app, including voice chats, the sending of photographs and other files, and video chats. Now Nadim Kobeissi, an applied cryptographer at Symbolic Software, suggests that China’s blocked all communication with WhatsApp entirely, starting this week.
WhatsApp is owned by Facebook, a company which has been attempting to bust in to China for years. Just this August, Facebook “snuck” into China with a new photo sharing app. According to the New York Times, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been “studying the Chinese language intensively” in order to push Facebook products back into availability in mainland China.
Facebook’s been blocked from use in China since 2009, and Zuckerberg’s been charming China in Mandarin since 2014. Every tech company with little or no presence in China seems to be aiming for a bigger piece of the pie – while China-based tech companies like Huawei aim to increase their presence in the USA.
China’s block of apps and websites includes the clamping down on of virtual private network apps and VPN of all sorts this year in particular. Meanwhile this is the year the 19th National Congress is set to take place in China – China’s Communist Party meeting on October 18th, 2017. Surely the two couldn’t be related.
As China slows down or stops communication apps that use private or otherwise anonymous means of transfer, well-monitored apps remain speedy. “If you’re only allowed to drive one mile per hour, you’re not going to drive on that road,” said Lokman Tsui, Chinese University of Hong Kong internet communications specialist, “even if it’s not technically blocked.”
This blocking or slowing down of specific sites and/or services is the antithesis of Net Neutrality. Neutrality on the web in China is essentially out of the question. Also according to the NYT, web-based chat isn’t completely blocked on networks monitored by Chinese authorities. One example is the WeChat app of the company Tencent. This app is “easily monitored by the Chinese authorities” and remains speedy as WhatsApp is slowed and/or stopped.