With China gearing up to host a big Communist Party conference in October, the government is moving to clamp down on the internet. Most recently, it has reportedly blocked the WhatsApp messaging app owned by Facebook.
According to a report in the New York Times, the move on the part of Beijing is seen as a setback for the social media giant, which has been trying to get back into China. WhatsApp was the last Facebook service allowed in China, and with this decision to block, Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook no longer has any business in the country. China has had a ban on Facebook since 2009, and Instagram isn’t available in the country.
The report noted that in the middle of July, China started blocking video chats and photo sharing on WhatsApp, but allowed texting until now. “This is not the typical technical method in which the Chinese government censors something,” Nadim Kobeissi, an applied cryptographer at Symbolic Software, told the New York Times in an interview. He said his company’s automated monitors started detecting disruptions of WhatsApp in China last week, and that efforts have been widespread as of Monday (Sept. 25). Facebook declined to comment to the New York Times, noted the report.
The upcoming communist conference, which has spurred China’s cyber watchdog to crack down with online censorship of internet companies, is held in China once a year. Reuters reported that Tencent’s WeChat, Baidu and Weibo were all fined the maximum penalties by China’s cyber regulators for allowing content that was banned by the government. According to the report, notices posted by the Cyberspace Administration of China said that all three companies will receive the “maximum penalty” for not removing content that the government deemed to be fake news, pornography and/or content that incites ethnic tensions and “threatens social order.”