WhatsApp’s encryption function has led the Chinese government to block it, while the UK is threatening the messaging app for cooperation.
WhatsApp recently came in the line of fire of China’s increasing online restrictions. The hugely popular messenger app, offering users end-to-end encryption has been blocked in China since Wednesday this week.
Users in China took to Twitter to vocalize their frustrations. Many users cited a political conference as the reason for the block.
Feel like a naughty child whose privileges have been revoked. Whatsapp is blocked in China ATM due to a political conference
— Lazy&Boujee (@TheMainKin) September 20, 2017
Several users, however, noted that WhatsApp still operates when using a VPN.
China has a reputation for monitoring citizens’ online activity and blocking all apps, websites, and software that the government deems dangerous to political stability. The monitoring and blockage are usually increased during moments of political strain or uncertainty.
Has China blocked WhatsApp again? Users experience problems – service seems to work only with VPN https://t.co/O4hiMsAcdW
— Andreas Landwehr (@andreaslandwehr) September 20, 2017
However, the Chinese government may have a larger reason for blocking the popular messaging app, as they have recently been targeting apps that software that encrypts its user’s activity.
The Indian website, MoneyControl, has also raised suspicions that the Chinese government could be blocking WhatsApp to encourage users in China to use WeChat instead. According to MoneyControl, WeChat readily hands over data and personal messages over to the Chinese authorities when asked to do so.
This could be a reason for why China has been targeting certain apps, especially those that are not compliant with the government but are more concerned with their users’ safety. Currently, there are a lot of suspicions that the Chinese intend to make WeChat the only messaging app in China.
While no one has confirmed or expanded this claim, there certainly are more than enough ground to suppose this.
Reasoning aside, Chinese users have demonstrated a lot of anger in the latest governmental blocking.
China is not the only government disliking WhatsApp’s encryption function.
Several Western governments have voiced scorn and concern over WhatsApp’s encryption function, condemning it as a platform which will encourage terrorism. Pioneers of online privacy, on the other hand, have praised WhatsApp for continuing to uphold the privacy of its users.
Even the UK Government has recently demanded that WhatsApp create a solution that will balance privacy protection and law enforcement.
These requests are not wholly unfounded. WhatsApp has been linked with recent terrorist attacks, particularly in the UK and Europe. The latest attack at London station, Parsons Green, has also been linked to WhatsApp. This has put a lot of strain on the company’s privacy policies.
WhatsApp’s defense stated that they cannot abide by this request simply because their encryption system does not allow for them to access any of the data being sent through their app. A popular news channel in the UK, Sky News recently reported that 80% of terrorist attacks have been helped by the encryption feature.