China tightens the screw on WhatsApp ahead of Communist Party leadership gathering

China temporarily blocks WhatsApp in run up to leadership meeting

China has taken action to block and otherwise disrupt access to Facebook-owned messaging service WhatsApp, part of a five-year cycle of punitive restrictions associated with the gathering of Communist Party officials - due to take place next month.

Chinese users have suffered from a partial unavailability of services since the clampdown which has seen the app blocked completely for periods, forcing users to resort to Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) in order to communicate for much of the past week.

That disruption has continued with users located within China unable to send video messages or photographs to users outside the country, amidst fears by the countries censors that the service could be used to disseminate messages critical of the party leadership and president Xi Jinping.

The crackdown comes as a further blow to Facebook, with the eponymous social network and its sister app Instagram, already having been blocked in the country following the embrace of the platform by independence activists in the autonomous territory of Xinjiang.

It is unlikely to have much impact, however, as the vast majority of Chinese citizens use WeChat for day to day communications, which sits firmly within government control.

China isn't alone in its internet crackdowns with Russia also taking steps to ban VPNs and other online anonymity tools.

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John Glenday

John Glenday is responsible for compiling The Drum's daily morning bulletin and ensuring that overnight breaking news is covered while you're still brushing your teeth. Can also make a mean cup of tea.

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