Signal, the encrypted chat app, has been shut down in China since Tuesday, in the region that appears to be a block of one of the last major foreign messaging services still in existence in the country. where the internet is tightly controlled.
Users in China on Tuesday morning announced widely that the app was discontinued. A New York Times trial of the app in Shanghai and Beijing confirmed the reports. Signal did not respond to an emailed comment request.
The outage appeared to have been caused by a government-led bloc. The application continues to function when mainland users log on to the service through a virtual private network, the software routes their connections outside the country.
Signal allows sending messages with “end-to-end encryption”, preventing anyone, except the sender and receiver from reading the content. The application has gained global popularity in recent months because of growing concerns about data collection from major internet companies.
Blocking potentially further limits China’s internet communication options, where the government has built up a sophisticated system of censorship and surveillance to control speech. Over the past 15 years, Beijing has gradually taken the advantage of foreign communication tools primarily intended for regular Chinese users. Services like Google’s Gmail, Facebook’s WhatsApp, and Twitter are all blocked.
In recent years, Signal has increased its modest followers in China among activists, journalists, lawyers and others as China’s top leader, Xi Jinping, has presided over a wide range of campaigns to crack down on the media, civil society groups, and online speech.
For many years, it has been a conference room game among its users in China to guess why Signal, which has long been a well-known tool for confidential communications, remains unobstructed. . One theory is that it helped authorities find out who was trying to hide government spies because when first downloaded, the app sends new users a text message they can follow. follow. However, the Chinese government often waits for applications to reach a larger scale before banning them. The social media website Clubhouse failed last month after it became popular.