A tweet from the official WhatsApp Twitter account today has revealed that the messaging app has been blocked in Syria.
We are told that WhatsApp is now being blocked in Syria. A blow to free speech and open communications everywhere. Sad day for freedom.
— WhatsApp Inc. (@WhatsApp) March 5, 2012
As Syria continues to crack down on activists in the country, President Bashar Al Asaad’s regime has been hard at work trying to cut off all forms of communication and information available to protesters. The suppressive tactics have been varied, with authorities raiding information centres and arresting its members, Syria’s main mobile operator censoring messages containing revolutionary keywords, and simply pulling the plug on the Internet altogether.
While Syrian mobile operators may have direct control over the messages that are being sent on their own networks, alternative messaging apps like WhatsApp give Syrian users an alternative method of communication that may have proven harder to monitor.
This is not the first mobile service to have been blocked in Syria. Livestreaming app Bambuser, which has been instrumental in getting footage out of the bombarded city of Homs, suffered a similar fate in Syria last month.
But it’s not just communications and apps that have been shut down. According to the latest Bambuser blog post, even the electricity has not been spared:
Unfortunately, for a couple of days it’s been getting more difficult for the people in Syria to reach out. Assad’s government does its utmost to control not only the people but also the communications with the outside world. A few days ago they began to turn off the electricity for up to 15 hours a day. With no electricity one cannot charge devices or use the Internet. The lack of electricity is not all – when it returns – it starts with high voltage peaks which burn out any devices plugged in.
At the moment, it would appear that Syrian users are only able to access WhatsApp when using a VPN service, as the messaging app has been blocked on all ISPs.