While the country is known for having rigid internet censorship, it's been ramping up its efforts even more in preparation for the 19th Communist Party congress this fall, where the government is slated to choose its new leaders.
Kobeissi found that China may have recently upgraded its firewall to detect and block the NoiseSocket protocol that WhatsApp uses to send texts, in addition to already blocking the HTTPS/TLS that WhatsApp uses to send photos and videos.
Now, Nadim Kobeissi, an applied cryptographer at Symbolic Software, a watchdog focusing on online censorship in China, reports that the use of text messages has also been blocked, completely restricting the use of the app in the country.
Facebook declined to comment, following past practice when asked about WhatsApp's difficulties in China.
The New York Times report states that video chats and other modes of file-sharing on WhatsApp were being blocked in mid-July but text messages were allowed to be sent. WhatsApp may have been targeted because of its strong encryption features lacked by services like Skype and Apple's FaceTime that are allowed to operate in China.
If the ban is lifted, it could serve as a show of power by the Chinese government, and might dissaude users seeking to rely on an encrypted messaging service in the country. But he said that some WhatsApp users might still manage to communicate. WhatsApp, government agencies, Facebook, nobody can read or see messages sent on the app.
Facebook has always been banned in mainland China, like other foreign social media broadcasting services.
Facebook reportedly built a censorship tool previous year that could be applied to its main social network, which could appeal to Chinese regulators who now maintain a ban on Facebook in the country.
The move is a blow to Facebook, which has been banned in China since 2009 and owns WhatsApp.
As Facebook hits use growth saturation in many parts of the world, China remains an untapped opportunity for growth.
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