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This article was published on March 16, 2021

Signal messaging app stops working for many users in China

Signal messaging app stops working for many users in China
Ivan Mehta
Story by

Ivan Mehta

Ivan covers Big Tech, India, policy, AI, security, platforms, and apps for TNW. That's one heck of a mixed bag. He likes to say "Bleh." Ivan covers Big Tech, India, policy, AI, security, platforms, and apps for TNW. That's one heck of a mixed bag. He likes to say "Bleh."

China is notorious for cracking down on apps that don’t let the government monitor content on them. Encrypted messaging app Signal now seems to have joined the list of apps under China’s watchful eye.

Earlier this morning, a lot of people based in China reported that Signal is not working for them unless they use a VPN (Virtual Private Network) service.

As TechCrunch noted, the website of the app was banned in the country yesterday, while the app is still available on the App Store. So for now, there are no government orders for Apple to remove the app.

According to app analytics firm SensorTower, the iOS version of Signal has been downloaded over 510,000 times in China to date. Globally, the app has crossed 100 million downloads across the App Store and the Play Store.

While Google Play is not officially available in China, alternative Android app stores don’t list Signal because of the country’s censorship law.

In January, when WhatsApp issued an update to its privacy policy, a ton of users started to migrate to Signal and Telegram, including those in China. However, there’s no way to monitor messages on Signal because of end-to-end encryption protection for chats.

At present, we don’t know if this ban is permanent, but because of the messaging app’s privacy-focused nature, I won’t be surprised if that’s the case.

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