Beijing - China has hit out at WhatsApp, saying the messaging service should act to
stop the spread of "illegal information" as the country seeks greater
scrutiny over the internet in the run-up to its once-in-five years
Communist Party congress.
WhatsApp should take proactive measures to intercept information to
do with violence and terror, the Cyberspace Administration of China said
in a statement in response to questions from Bloomberg News. China has
the authority to tell institutions to take these measures, said the
agency, without specifying details of content it considered illegal.
"A country’s cyberspace sovereignty should be protected," it added.
A spokesperson for WhatsApp declined to comment.
The response comes as China is seen to be
tightening the screws on WhatsApp, which has until recently been one of
the only remaining major messaging services to operate unfettered in the
Beijing has been employing cutting-edge surveillance technology to
disrupt the messaging service as part of a longer-term online crackdown,
according to Nadim Kobeissi, a cryptographer at Paris-based online
security firm Symbolic Software.
The interference - which saw
WhatsApp’s service interrupted across China at the weekend before it was
resumed - marks a step up from July, when local users began
experiencing sporadic issues sending images and voice messages.
The government has slapped fines on media and technology companies
for failing to screen content, shuttered celebrity gossip sites, and
punished chat-group administrators on Tencent’s WeChat
service for hosting sensitive content. The
congress, which is due to get under way on October 18, will see a
twice-a-decade reshuffle of the party leadership.
“China’s Internet is fully open,” the administration said. “We
welcome internet companies from various countries to provide Chinese
internet users with good information services.”
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