WhatsApp users in China have reported on other social media platforms that the messaging app could have been blocked by Chinese Government authorities following the death of Liu Xiaobo in prison.

The chat application that is owned by Facebook is now experiencing service disruptions. According to experts, a total blockage is possible and may be on its way. Users are quick to speculate that such move is part of the country's new wave of Internet censorship.

Internet Censorship System in China

In an effort to prevent smartphone users from getting access to restricted online material, China asked the country's top three internet providers to facilitate the blocking.

According to reports, telecommunications companies China Unicom, China Telecom, and China Mobile were asked to inhibit access to content not approved and controlled by the government.

In addition, authorities have also shut down Green VPN, a popular private network service. Virtual private networks (VPNs) allows users to send secure data and information through an open internet connection. In fact, it is a popular way for them to access online content outside the premises of their country.

Such move by the government was interpreted to be part of a campaign to only grant licensure to companies that adhere to their agreement and policies. These increased efforts to control the internet have pushed Chinese citizens to use other softwares and services to avoid the censorship of online material.

Ban serves a political agenda

WhatsApp may have a relatively small following compared to the more popular domestic app WeChat, but loyalty among users is well-defined. The Facebook-owned chat app is more preferred by users wanting more privacy from government intrusion. Its counterpart may be pervasive, but it is also closely monitored and filtered.

Reports broke out today that people who are trying to access the chat app from within China have difficulties with the app and were unable to send or receive voice and picture messages. Those who are still trying to work around the issue says the chat app can only be accessed with the use of a VPN to circumvent the Great Firewall, which is the country's strict internet block.

Questions over WhatsApp's disruption has also been coated with political issues due to the government's concerted effort to block communications online mentioning the death of the dissident Liu Xiaobo. More specifically, messages in the chat app commemorating his death were intercepted and deleted. According to Citizen Lab of the University of Toronto, all images related to Xiabo were blocked in various feeds, private messages, and group chats. Further, all results pertaining to him were also wiped out from their search engine, Weibo.

China has already blocked Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, and even Google. Government officials are firm to argue that foreign social media services that operate beyond their control pose a threat to national security. Looking at this trajectory, internet users in China need to prepare well ahead of time for further blocking and banning.