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China blocks WhatsApp services ahead of key Communist Party meeting, say reports

Disruptions to WhatsApp services seen as authorities step up monitoring ahead of the Communist Party congress on October 18
Edited by: India TV Tech Desk Beijing September 26, 2017 9:59 IST
India TV Tech Desk

In yet another move signaling the tight censorship that authorities exercise with regard to flow of information, China is believed to have disrupted the WhatsApp messaging app as it steps up monitoring ahead of a key meeting of the ruling Communist Party regime next month. Media reports said users in China reported increased disruptions in recent days to the Facebook-owned service, which previously malfunctioned in the country over the summer.

According to news agency AFP, text messaging, voice calls and video calls appeared to be working again on Tuesday, though voice messages and photos were not going through.

WhatsApp’s message encryption technology does not please Chinese authorities, which closely monitor and restrict cyberspace through their "Great Firewall".

The trouble for WhatsApp come just ahead of the Communist Party congress on October 18. It is at this meeting that President Xi Jinping is expected to be given a second five-year term as the party's general secretary. As has been practice, China steps up surveillance around major events and the disruption of WhatsApp services appears to be on the same lines.

China has already tightened its online policing this year, with new rules requiring tech companies to store user data inside the country as well as restrictions on what is permissible content.

Websites such as Facebook, Twitter and a slew of foreign media have been blocked for years in the Communist nation.

While the WeChat messaging app owned by China's Tencent company is more widely used in the country, many WhatsApp users complained about the disruptions.

Some noted that it would make it difficult to work with clients abroad.

"Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, Viber were blocked before. Now even WhatsApp is blocked? Without good messaging tools, it will reduce the efficiency of the foreign trade industry," wrote one person on Weibo, China's Twitter-like social media website.

"I can live without the others (applications), but blocking WhatsApp is driving me crazy," said another.

WhatsApp has sent out no official communication in this regard yet.