No signal? Signal encrypted messaging app blocked in China | Social Media News

Signal’s app appears to be the latest foreign social media service to cease operating in China, where the flow of information is tightly controlled.

Encrypted messaging app Signal appears to have been blocked in mainland China, the latest foreign social media service to stop operating in a country where the government tightly controls the flow of information.

Since Tuesday, app users in China have had to connect to a virtual private network (VPN) that allows them to bypass China’s so-called Great Firewall, a censorship system that blocks websites, services and applications deemed inappropriate by the Chinese government. .

The move to silence Signal, one of China’s few remaining messaging apps that allowed users to engage in encrypted messaging, comes as China expands controls to shape public opinion and sometimes limit speech private.

Users in China said on Tuesday they couldn’t connect the app without a VPN service. Messages could not be sent and calls were unsuccessful.

In China, services like Facebook, Google and Twitter have been blocked for years. More recently, the popular social audio platform Clubhouse was also shut down in the country, shortly after Chinese users of the app began participating in real-time audio chats deemed sensitive by authorities, such as the mass detentions of Uyghurs in China in Xinjiang.

Zhao Lijian, spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry, told a daily press briefing on Tuesday that he was “unaware of the situation” surrounding Signal’s ban in China.

“What I can tell you is that in principle, the Chinese Internet is open, and the Chinese government handles Internet-related affairs according to law and regulations,” Zhao said.

Signal could not immediately be reached for comment.

Signal uses end-to-end encryption for its messaging and calling services, which prevents any third party from viewing the content of the conversation or listening to the calls.

The app has recently become popular among users in China concerned about privacy issues, although the number of Signal users in the country is still small compared to the ubiquitous messaging app WeChat. WeChat has over a billion users and is a mainstay of daily life in China with its payment services and social media features.

However, politically sensitive messages and content on WeChat are often censored and authorities have detained users for spreading rumors online. Messages on WeChat are only encrypted between its servers and user devices, and in theory could be viewed by Tencent, WeChat’s parent company.

To circumvent Chinese censorship and access sites like Twitter or Facebook, users in China often use VPN services, although using these services to access blocked services is illegal in the country.