China banned the instant messaging app, WhatsApp, on 24th August 2017. The app had faced many restrictions in the past, most recently with the ban on its media sharing feature in July 2017.
The ban is a blow to Facebook, the popular social networking website which owns the app. Facebook itself has been banned in China since 2009. This leaves the company with only one stake in the Chinese market, the photo sharing app Colorful Balloons.
In a statement provided to The Verge in August 2017, Facebook stated, “Spending time understanding and learning more about the country in different ways. Our focus right now is on helping Chinese businesses and developers expand to new markets outside China by using our ad platform.” The move by China on Sunday has raised serious questions regarding the integrity of these discussions.
The increase in censorship coincides with the upcoming 19th National Congress of the Chinese Community Party (CCP). The party is set to meet on the 18th of October 2017 in Beijing and will discuss positions to be held within the party.
WeChat, another messaging app, was allowed to continue operations in China since it provides the government with easy access of users’ personal data. WhatsApp, with its end-to-end encryption software, does not subscribe to the Chinese government’s Big Brother like world view.
However, in the past China banned the app and allowed it to resume functions within a few weeks. Thus time will tell if this ban is permanent or merely a passing fancy.