09/26/2017, 14.09
CHINA
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WhatsApp in the crosshair of Chinese censorship

For more than a week the app had dropped in and out with periods of total disruption. Photo sharing and voice messaging have become impossible. The app provides end-to-end encryption. As the 19th Chinese Communist Party Congress approaches, the government has tightened censorship.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The messaging service WhatsApp has been disrupted in China as local authorities adopted the latest restrictive measure ahead of the 19th Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) slated for next month.

Problems with the service began last week as it dropped in and out. At times, it has been completely blocked and only accessible via virtual private networks that circumvent China's internet firewall.

Audio and video messaging were available today, but video and audio were blocked.

WhatsApp is Facebook's only product allowed in mainland China. Facebook's main social media service and its Instagram image sharing app are not available on the mainland.

The disruption follows restrictions on WhatsApp video chats and photographs in July, which were later lifted.

Cyber security experts said WhatsApp most likely came under the attention of China's censors because it has a strong reputation for security.

The app provides end-to-end encryption that ensures only the sender and recipient can view the content of messages.

It also prevents Facebook from knowing what is said in any text, voice and video conversation being communicated on WhatsApp.

The app’s troubles follow a crackdown ahead of the Communist Party congress set to start on 18 October. The latter takes place every five years.

Xi Jinping is expected to be given a second five-year term as the party’s general secretary.

It is not unusual for Beijing to step up surveillance around major events, but it unclear whether this time restrictions will be lifted after the congress or remain.

Messaging services like Facebook, Twitter and many foreign media have been blocked in China for years.

Yesterday, China's cyber watchdog handed down maximum penalties to some of the country's top technology firms including Tencent, Baidu and Weibo for failing to properly censor online content.

In particular, the penalties were imposed for failing to remove fake news and pornography, as well as content that authorities said "incites ethic tension" and "threatens social order".

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