It appears that China has partially blocked the messaging app, WhatsApp. Users are reporting that some features aren’t working, and Nadim Kobeissi, a cryptography researcher has confirmed that picture and voice messages appear to be blocked but text messages are still working. Some reports earlier this week suggested that authorities can alter or delete messages on unencrypted services like WeChat; the block suggests they can’t tamper with WhatsApp messages due to encryption.
The block is supposedly due to the death of a Chinese dissenter who recently passed away in prison. Earlier this week, there were reports claiming that messages commemorating Liu Xiaobo were being intercepted and deleted. Citizen Lab, a monitoring project at the University of Toronto said that images of the dissenter were being blocked in private messages, group chats, and on WeChat’s Moments feed following his death.
The number one instant messenger app in China is WeChat; as mentioned earlier, it doesn’t encrypt messages allowing the government in the country to more closely monitor what people are saying. WhatsApp and other encrypted messengers are fairly popular amongst anti-government sorts and have been subjected to bans before now. Telegram, for example, which boasts encrypted messaging, was blocked in 2015 after enabling human rights lawyers and still remains blocked in the country.