The suppression of internet freedom seemed to have intensified in china. In fact, the Chinese government has reportedly blocked Facebook's messaging app, WhatsApp. The latest censorship came days after the Chinese censors banned Disney cartoon character Winnie-the-Pooh on social media platforms WeChat and Weibo.

In recent weeks, the government of China has tightened its control over the internet. In fact, a new cyber security law was implemented last month. That's why it's not really surprising that China's "Great Firewall" disrupted WhatsApp, the last major Facebook product that is still available in China.

WhatsApp censorship

Despite the fact that Facebook and Instagram were banned in China, WhatsApp had generally avoided such censorship. Unfortunately, the government decided to finally block the messaging app partially.

As per Symbolic Software cryptographer Nadim Kobeissi, China's Great Firewall is responsible for "imposing censorship that selectively targets WhatsApp functionalities." Hence, several users are now unable to send videos and images while some subscribers are unable to send "text-based" messages.

Another possible reason is the fact that WhatsApp messages are encrypted. With that said, GreatFire.org co-founder Charlie Smith explained that blocking WhatsApp would force more subscribers to use unencrypted and highly censored messaging app such as WeChat.

Internet freedom suppression

As the 19th Communist Party Congress looms, internet and social media freedom tightened in China.

Due to politically sensitive reports, the nation's news environment also intensified. According to New York Times, the strict web activity regulation is attributed to China's President Xi Jinping's rise to power.

The publication added that Xi has consistently deepened the "suppression of internet freedom" by urging China to "establish sovereignty" in the online realm. President Xi also reportedly created a "new internet regulator" to fortify and secure China's controls over the internet.

New cyber security law

In recent months, the world witnessed how China consolidated its reigns over the internet, where virtual private networks (VPNs) and tools were shut down or taken out from app stores. In February 2018, unauthorized VPNs will be banned in China.

Due to these strongly emphasized and newly implemented cyber security rules, several Western companies are expected to face a lot of uncertainties when it comes to the applications and existential effects these rules would bring. Even though most firms comply with China's laws, the excessive censorship and control could lead to some drastic impacts, especially when it comes to the nation's "ability to access crucial information such as educational resources."

China's next target

As the online crackdown in China continues, Eurasia Group geo-technology head Paul Triolo hinted that Chinese censors might also "target other encrypted messaging apps" such as Signal.

The reason? Triolo explained the said apps have attracted the "attention of the technical wizards behind the Great Firewall," who wanted to prove they can keep up with the latest technological changes and innovations.

A Chinese government policy adviser, however, revealed that a new set of rules will be implemented next year but stressed that it would not be "so extreme." Instead, the rules will only aim to prevent the people from using such tools.

Meanwhile, some Chinese officials are urging the government to think of ways to block "specific materials" only instead of banning the "entire services" as they continue to strengthen its cyber security laws.

However, it remains uncertain if WhatsApp will be completely banned or if its services will be restored. The recent WhatsApp disruption came after Facebook's ban in 2009 and Instagram in 2014.

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