by Graham Pierrepoint
China is famously protective over a number of media elements it wishes to censor – and while it may not be under the grip of the sort of system currently in play over in North Korea, the country’s censorship moves have been wildly contrasted in the West, where use of certain platforms and speech – for the most part – is relatively free. Facebook is one such aspect of modern life that the country has widely stood against since it hit peak popularity a few years ago – and while there are over a billion people now registered to use the service, none of them will be users based in China – as it is completely blocked from all devices on the mainland. Until lately, one such service still owned and operated by Zuckerberg and the Big F was still available to use in the country – until this week, when moves were seemingly made to silence it for good.
The service in question is the ever-steady WhatsApp, whose encrypted messaging has come under scrutiny worldwide – and which has remained resolute despite concerns from various world leaders – as Chinese authorities have now allegedly outright blocked the use of the software completely. Users based in the country were previously able to still send text messages as normal – but video and photo content was widely blocked as a result of state intervention on a temporary basis.
Mass media now reports that the app has now been completely silenced on Chinese shores, meaning that – according to experts – that authorities in the country may finally have been able to work in tandem with software developers to block all app communication. However, there is concern that such blocking has occurred without fanfare – as Chinese authorities are traditionally clear and advisory on measures they have taken to make changes to censuring throughout the nation.
WhatsApp, meanwhile, remains a fairly controversial, if widely-accepted messenger service which retains the ability to encrypt all messages that go between any devices using the service. This means that any authorities looking to retrieve data sent between, for example, two devices, will be unable to do so – unless they have direct access to the handsets in question and if messages have remained undeleted. In any case, WhatsApp remains hugely popular as a free messenger – a viable alternative to SMS – which will now have taken a considerable blow should China legitimately have removed itself from the user map.