WhatsApp services virtually stand banned in China, which instantly denies the Facebook-owned company access to a huge market. The move, however, isn’t entirely unexpected given the fate of other social networking sites like Facebook, YouTube, and such that have been banned in China.
The WhatsApp ban again can’t exactly be termed a sudden development as the service has been under the scanner of the authorities for some time now. In fact, it was just some weeks back that sending video or audio messages or files on WhatsApp came for severe disruptions.
Those were revoked a few weeks back, but services continued to be intermittent at best. Interestingly, WhatsApp does not seem to have been technically banned as a whole. Rather, the services have been rendered almost unusable, to the extent that users would be forced to look for other more viable alternatives.
This also happens to be the usual strategy adopted by the state authorities in China that does not seem to go for outright banning for such services. Instead, they seek to be disruptive enough to force users to switch to such services that again are monitored heavily by the authorities.
Notable among those is WeChat that is modeled along the same lines as WhatsApp and has close to a billion active users already. The move no doubt comes as a huge blow to Facebook whose main social media app has already been banned in the country since 2009. Instagram too has met with a similar fate, with WhatsApp to be the last of Zuckerberg’s services to have been shut out.
The timing of the development is also interesting given that it comes just weeks before the Chinese ruling Communist party is headed for its National Congress, a major convention that decides the leader that would be the next ruling head of the country. The party bosses are also wary of granting civil liberties for fear of the same being used to push for a greater democratic order in China.