Signal: China Probably Blocked Access To The Encrypted Messaging Service


Mainland China may have blocked access to the renowned encrypted messaging service, Signal. The international social media service seems to have ceased in a country where the government rigidly controls the information flow. 

The Signal app users residing within China had to connect to a VPN or Virtual Private Network that permits them to get past the so-called Great Firewall of China. Great Firewall is a censorship system blocking websites, services and applications found inappropriate by the Chinese government.

With the closure of other encrypted chat services like EncroChat and WhatsApp’s privacy terms update, the users had relocated to Signal, one of the few remaining accessible messaging apps in China. The Chinese users stated that they could not get the messaging app’s connectivity without utilizing a VPN service. They had experienced failed messages on sending to the other parties, and the calls did not connect at all without the VPN. However, the app was available on the China app store of Apple, while the app and the website had appeared to be working fine in Hong Kong.

It has been years that social media services like Twitter and Facebook alongside Google had been blocked. Back in February, the renowned social media audio platform named Clubhouse had also been taken down. The Chinese users had taken part in the now-discontinued app in the real-time audio discussion that seemed sensitive by the governmental authorities – mass detentions of Uighurs, Xinjiang of China.

A Chinese ministry of foreign affairs spokesperson, Zhao Lijian, had mentioned in a daily news that he was unaware of the situation regarding Signal being banned in Mainland China.

“What I can tell you is that as a principle, China’s internet is open, and the Chinese government manages internet-related affairs according to law and regulations,” Zhao said.

However, Signal could not be reached for comment immediately. 

The messaging app, Signal, makes use of end-to-end-encryption for its calling and messaging services that prevent third-party interruptions. It declines the third-parties to view conversation content or listen to call conversations.

Recently, the encrypted app has mainly grown popular amongst Chinese users who are concerned with privacy issues. On the contrary, the total number of Signal users is much petite than the WeChat messaging app’s user base. Signal had been downloaded nearly 510,000 times on iOS in Mainland China and downloaded 100 million times globally on Google Play Store and App store combined. The data company Sensor Tower had furnished this data. WeChat boasts over a billion users globally, owing to its social media features backed by payments services. It is considered the mainstay of daily life in China.

Nevertheless, sensitive messages and content focusing politics are often censored on WeChat and that the governmental authorities have detained the users for spreading online rumours. WeChat messages are encrypted between the users’ devices and the servers while, in theory, they are accessible by WeChat’s parent company, Tencent.

To bypass China’s levied censorship on social media services such as Facebook or Twitter, Chinese users often opt for VPN services. The usage of VPNs to access blocked services is strictly illegal in the country.

Source: The Guardian

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