Skype banned, WhatsApp blocked: What's Middle East's problem with messenger apps?
In late September, Saudi Arabia's telecommunications regulatory authority CITC announced it was finally the "lifting of the ban on all applications that provide voice and video communications over the internet".
The move was welcomed by consumers, who previously had found services like TimeTime, Snapchat, Skype, Line, Telegram, and Tango blocked in the Kingdom.
A troubled history
This situation isn't necessarily unique to Saudi Arabia. Over the summer, residents in neighboring Qatar reported that they were struggling to use VoIP services.
In a nation with large numbers of expatriate workers -- Qataris make up just 12.1 percent of the population -- such services are a communication lifeline for many residents. That is especially true for lower-salaried workers from nations such as India, Nepal, Bangladesh, and the Philippines. Residents from these countries alone make up nearly 60 percent of Qatar's population.
The Qatar move sparked confusion, discussions about workarounds, and a negative reaction from some social-media users.
Like Qatar, nearby United Arab Emirates, which is also home to a large expat population, has had a similarly troubled relationship with these types of service. WhatsApp and Snapchat calls have historically been blocked, along with FaceTime.
Other states in the region have also adopted comparable policies, restricting access to VoIP and social-media providers, either in the short or long term.
In March 2016, Morocco blocked Skype, Viber, Tango, WhatsApp, and Facebook Messenger, eventually lifting the ban eight months later. Meanwhile, Algeria temporarily closed multiple social networks and messaging services, during summer 2016, in a bid to stop students cheating in their exams.
Murky regulatory waters
Broadly speaking, the root causes for these dynamics typically fall into one or more of three categories: licensing, freedom of expression, and money.
Saudi Arabia's telecom regulatory authority said it was lifting the ban on services "that meet the regulatory requirements in the Kingdom", suggesting that they previously had not.
In countries like the UAE and Qatar, regulatory requirements can make it difficult for VoIP providers to operate in the same way as they do elsewhere. As Qatar's Communications Regulatory Authority (CRA) has noted: "There are no laws or rules that prohibit the use of such technology within the State of Qatar."
That said, it notes that: "The Telecommunications Law 34 of 2006 does, however, make it illegal for any person to provide telecommunications services to the public for a direct or indirect fee without a license issued by ictQATAR for that purpose."
"Currently the only two entities licensed by ictQATAR to provide such voice services to the public in Qatar are Qatar Telecom, or QTel, and Vodafone Qatar."
Although it says that Qatar is "committed to encouraging the availability of the latest technology to Qatari citizens and residents", it adds these rules nonetheless mean that: "no person or business within the State of Qatar may sell VoIP calls or services to the public or businesses without a license issued by ictQATAR."
Similar arguments about licensing, often accompanied by a sometimes seemingly contradictory aspiration to promote access to digital tools and platforms, have been used in other countries across the region.
Licensing issues aside, financial considerations are also suspected of playing a role here. There's also a strong argument to suggest that many Middle Eastern governments have a vested financial interest in ensuring that free voice and video-calling services remain blocked.
As long as these services are banned, then consumers must pay for international calls, generating more profits for the major telecom providers in the process. And who is the major shareholder in many of the leading telecoms providers? In many cases, it's the national government.
More than half of Ooredoo, the leading mobile network operator in Qatar, is owned by the State of Qatar; Etisalat is 60 percent owned by the Emirates Investment Authority, the sovereign wealth fund of the United Arab Emirates.
The Saudi Telecom Company (STC), the Kingdom's leading telecoms provider, is majority-owned with a 70 percent share by the government through its Public Investment Fund.
Investment and security
One reason governments and operators can argue for the continued provision of these protections is that these higher income levels can be used to support the deployment of infrastructure projects, such as fiber to the home, and network upgrades like 4G and 5G.
Another consideration, cited in some instances by Middle Eastern governments, is security.
With many popular messaging apps offering encryption, and social-media users showing an increasing preference to moving previously open conversations to closed networks, monitoring these exchanges is becoming more difficult.
It's in this context that at times of upheaval, such as last year's attempted coup in Turkey -- apparently hatched over WhatsApp -- these networks have often been blocked.
But, as Northwestern University in Qatar has found: "nearly seven in 10 national internet users say they changed how they use social media due to privacy concerns".
VPNs, which were outlawed in the UAE in 2016, are also popular in the region for similar reasons, given their ability to bypass the content restrictions and consumer concerns about ISP record keeping.
Navigating privacy concerns and consumer preferences is a challenge for governments in the region, and their motives for blocking services are clearly mixed. Reasons for blocks are often not clearly communicated, leading to further confusion about the rules and regulations, and the intentions behind them.
As 3G and 4G adoption across the region continues to rise, demand for these services is only likely to grow. This growth will increase pressures on the need for regulatory clarity, while also further challenging existing revenue models.
To some extent, this change is already happening. The GSMA's annual analysis of the Middle East mobile market, found: "In Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Israel, more than four-fifths of mobile phone owners use IP messaging apps more frequently than SMS, and in Algeria and Morocco, use of IP messaging is growing rapidly, with more than 55 percent of mobile-phone owners now using IP messaging apps more frequently than SMS."
As Simon Kemp, founder of consultancy Kepios, told ZDNet earlier in this year, the popularity of over-the-top services like VoIP and mobile messaging apps "means [consumers] no longer need to maintain multiple mobile contracts to take advantage of intra-network deals".
The continued growth of these services, driven by the rise in smartphone adoption, makes it "a critical time for telcos to up their value propositions and put data-driven services at the core of their offerings," Kemp said.
That's a sentiment that will remain true for mobile providers in the region for some time to come, irrespective of the evolving regulatory backdrop in which they operate.
Previous and related coverage
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E-commerce in the Middle East and North Africa is potentially huge but it faces equally large obstacles.
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Read more on WhatsApp
Related Topics:Government Smartphones Mobile OS Security Hardware Reviews Sours: https://www.zdnet.com/article/skype-banned-whatsapp-blocked-whats-middle-easts-problem-with-messenger-apps/
In 2009, WhatsApp was released. It had amazing features like Texting, VOIP calling, and other. It revolutionized the way of communicating with your relatives, friends and loved ones. Even though this made it easier to connect to people, some countries have banned the app completely. This leaves the question that why WhatsApp and is banned or banned.
Some believe that the restrictions on the application are because of national security concerns. Other than that, the WhatsApp ban could be due to governments trying to support the local telecommunication companies.
WhatsApp is banned in over 7 countries. This is a list of countries in which WhatsApp is banned. Are you intrigued about what countries have banned such a game-changing application? keep reading to find out.
List of Countries Where WhatsApp Is Banned
Following are the countries that have banned WhatsApp. It is banned for their residents and within the jurisdiction, they will not be able to use it without getting in trouble. However, the consequences are not disclosed.
The Chinese government has banned WhatsApp during campaigns related to politics. Mainly because of the high encryption features and censorship reasons. The ban is however temporary, the ban is usually lifted within a few months.
The Chinese authorities have a history of blocking internet services, if not blocking they will slow it down to such extent that using it will not be an option. This censorship has forced users to switch to communications methods that function smoothly and quickly but they can be easily monitored by the Chinese authorities.
It seems like that the Chinese authorities want to log information and since WhatsApp is well known among cryptographers for its encryption. It keeps getting banned in China.
North Korea has blocked WhatsApp, the most popular instant messaging application. WhatsApp was an e2e encrypted messaging platform but after this ban, it can only be accessed through a VPN.
According to an interview from a reputable source, a local came forward and said the local authorities were spreading information that the block was from the side of the company. However, there was no information validating that statement from the authorities was provided.
Martyn Williams who operates the North Korea Tech website stated that “if the local authorities banned the application it is because they want users to communicate through unencrypted channels”. This will make it easier for the government to keep records of the communication.
Iran’s government has banned WhatsApp a couple of times. Internet censorship regulation is complicated. It involves a wide range of audience. The government, judiciary, religious groups, political parties and businesses all put pressure to block or unblock social media applications.
Even though Iran takes development in the internet sector very seriously, it is observed that the bans are due to political pressure. However, there’s no answer to why the ban is actually implemented.
The political condition of Syria has always been the reason of banning applications such as WhatsApp. Rebels use the encryption of WhatsApp as their main weapon to plot protests against the government which is why Syria has to ban WhatsApp.
Rebels and Journalists are trying to find new ways in order to keep track and organize information on the government and other institutions and different kind of activities. In order to stay secure keep the political situation intact, Syria opts for the ban on social media applications.
Qatar is not different from any of those countries that are mentioned above. The government of Qatar has banned WhatsApp from being used. This is because of The Telecommunication Law 34 of 2006 makes it illegal for any person or any organization to provide telecommunication services to the public without a license issued by ictQATAR.
Even though Qatar believes in providing cutting-edge technologies to its residents, It is such a shame that you are deprived of using such a game-changing application.
United Arab Emirates
UAE’s reason to ban WhatsApp and other social media applications that provide VOIP services is to promote the different kinds of telecommunication companies working in UAE. This ban leads to the increment in overall revenue in UAE and helps the economy.
UAE is known to provide shelter and employment to people with different nationalities, such as Indians, Pakistanis, and the residents of Bangladesh. Majority of them use free VOIP services to connect with their families and friends but due to the ban, they can’t which is quite the pain for working residents.
How to Avoid the WhatsApp Ban?
WhatsApp and other VOIP services changed the game when it came to connecting up with your family and friends. Living in countries miles away from your family and friends and not being able to connect with them is very hard to come up with.
There’s a solution available for that, you can bypass WhatsApp restrictions and still use it to contact your family by using a software client known as VPN. A VPN stands for Virtual Private Network and is in charge of securing your network and encrypting the traffic. It means covering your real IP address with that provided by the VPN service.
For your ease, we’ve compiled a list of VPNs that are industry leading and 100% secure for you to check out. These VPNs will serve you with whatever task you throw at them.
- Private Internet Access (PIA)
These VPNs are easy to set up and use, they also offer 24/7 customer service which will allow you to fix any problem.
WhatsApp is one of the top VOIP application with well above 100,000. Residents of these countries cannot enjoy the features of WhatsApp since it is banned in there. However, it doesn’t mean that the application is banned forever. The government can lift the ban when it feels like. Until then you can use other VOIP applications available, that are free.
There’s another option to lift the restrictions while using WhatsApp or any other application in that country. VPN can encrypt your data, change your physical location by routing your traffic where WhatsApp isn’t blocked. This, however, is a paid service. In the end, it is up to you and what you opt for.
WhatsApp is the world’s most popular and most used instant messaging app. With about 1.6 billion users, WhatsApp is used in 190 countries — representing about 55.6 percent of the world’s population. And this is so because WhatsApp comes with a handful of features that allows people communicate (via text, audio and video) with family, friends, colleagues, and friends all over the world.. all for FREE!
However, while many individual and businesses enjoy the benefits of WhatsApp in their countries, some features of instant messaging service is restricted in certain countries. We take a look at some countries that have banned WhatsApp and why you cannot use the app (or some of its features) in such regions.
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WhatsApp was banned/blocked by the Chinese Government sometime in 2017 during the country’s political season and hasn’t been been uncensored till date. Reports have it that the service was banned in the country due to its strong encryption features which limits the country’s power to control the contents it’s citizens are exposed to, particularly during political periods. It is, on the other hand, believed that the Chinese Government censored the WhatsApp in the country to promote the use of its native instant messaging app, WeChat.
2. United Arab Emirates (UAE)
When in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), you can not make video or voice calls via WhatsApp. This is because the UAE placed a ban on WhatsApp (and some other social media apps) in order to promote the use of local telecommunication services based in the country and ultimately increase the country’s revenue.
So when next you’re in the UAE, you have to find some other means of voice or visual means to talk to your friends and family within and outside the country other than WhatsApp.
The Iranian government also blocks access to WhatsApp in the country every now and then. No one exactly knows for a fact why the government has restricted the use of WhatsApp in the country but several sources have reported the censorship to be attributed to politics and security.
WhatsApp is among the social media applications that have been banned in Syria for political reasons. It is believed that the impenetrable end-to-end encryption of WhatsApp can be utilized by state enemies to plot against the government; hence the ban.
5. North Korea
In North Korea as well, WhatsApp services are blocked. Reports have it that the app’s end-to-end encryption limits the ability of the government to keep track of communications in the country.
If you’ll ever be in North Korea soon, you should plan to use some other form of communications other than WhatsApp.
Cuba is also on the list of countries that have limited the use of WhatsApp as well as other social media and communication apps. Surprisingly, the Cuban government didn’t ban WhatsApp in the region for political or security reasons, or as a way to keep tab on its citizens communications.
WhatsApp and other internet services and chat platforms are restricted in Cuba due to extremely high cost of internet usage in the country. The cost of using the internet in Cuba is so high that it exceeds the average salary of Cuba citizens. Crazy, isn’t it. Only a selected few (e.g. politicians, journalists, and legally authorized students) are eligible to use/access the internet and communication apps like WhatsApp.
If you’ve got plans to visit any of the countries listed above, perhaps for vacation or work, you should research some alternative ways to communicate in and outside the countries other than WhatsApp — because you wouldn’t be able to legally use it.
Featured image: Fresh Fort Point
Countries Which Have Banned WhatsApp Usage & The Reasons Why
While WhatsApp is one of the most popular instant messaging application of the 21st century and 55.6% of the world’s population use it for communication, there are certain countries who don’t have full access to the app.
Some of the features of WhatsApp are restricted in some regions of the world while it’s use is more or less banned in some
Here are some of the countries that have banned WhatsApp, restricted WhatsApp and the reasons thereof
WhatsApp was banned/blocked by the Chinese Government in 2017 during the country’s political tide and hasn’t been been uncensored to date.
According to reports, the service was banned in the country due to its strong encryption codes which limits the country’s power to control and censor the contents it’s citizens are exposed to especially during the time of political unrest.
Some reports say that the Chinese Government censored WhatsApp in the country so they could promote the use of their instant messaging app, WeChat.
2. United Arab Emirates (UAE)
You can not make video calls or voice calls via WhatsApp in the UAE.
The reason being the UAE placed a ban on some WhatsApp features in order to promote the use of their local telecommunication services and ultimately increase the country’s revenue.
The Iranian government has been known to block access to WhatsApp in the country from time to time.
While the government hasn’t given reasons why it’s s in the habit of blocking WhatsApp, several sources claim that the censorship has to do with politics and security.
WhatsApp among other social media applications has been banned in Syria for mostly political reasons.
It is believed that the end-to-end encryption feature of WhatsApp can be utilized by state enemies to plot against the government; hence the ban.
5. North Korea
WhatsApp services are blocked in North Korea as well. According to reports, the app’s end-to-end encryption limits the ability of the government to keep track of communications in the country.
Cuba has limited the use of WhatsApp together with other social media applications.
However its for different reasons which have nothing to do with politics, security or censorship.
The Cuban government restricted its uses because it is very expensive. The cost of using the internet in Cuba is so high that it exceeds the average salary of Cuba citizens!
Only a selected few (e.g. politicians, journalists, and legally authorized students) are eligible to use/access the internet and communication apps like WhatsApp according to reports.
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It is sadly common for social networking and communication apps to be banned in multiple countries and WhatsApp is no different. The main reason cited behind such communication restrictions are concerns over national security. Other countries claim such chat app bans help support local telecommunication companies. Express.co.uk has compiled a list of countries where using WhatsApp is restricted or totally banned.
China WhatsApp ban:
With WhatsApp, you'll get fast, simple, secure messaging and calling for free
WhatsApp has been blocked by the Chinese Government during political campaigns because of the chat app’s strong encryption features.
The Chinese government censors content for mainly political reasons, but also to maintain its control over the populace.
However, according to previous trends in China, these WhatsApp bans are usually only temporary and usually lifted within a few months.
READ MORE: Google's next flagship could have three advantages over the Galaxy S10
North Korea WhatsApp ban:
North Korea is permanently under the international spotlight due to dictatorial leader Kim Jong Un’s bellicose rhetoric and military grandstanding.
Censorship in North Korea ranks among some of the most extreme in the world.
In a country where citizens are starved of any information other than government propaganda, the internet too is dictated by the needs of the state.
This is why North Korea offers only limited access to social networks like Facebook and WhatsApp.
READ MORE: ‘Irritating glitch’ hits some Windows 10 users
Cuba WhatsApp ban:
Cuba has dramatically restricted the usage of internet and chat platforms.
Censorship in Cuba is extensive, has resulted in European Union sanctions and statements of protest from governments around the world.
Cuba consequently ranks low in the Press Freedom Index.
In Cuba, only politicians, journalists and select students are legally eligible to access the internet and social platforms like WhatsApp.
The surprising reasons cited are not political concerns, but the high cost of internet usage which is said to exceed the average salary of Cuban residents.
Iran WhatsApp ban:
Censorship in Iran is extensive, with Reporters Without Borders describing Iran as “one of the world’s most repressive countries for journalists for the past 40 years”.
The blocking of WhatsApp has been seen in Iran on a number of occasions.
Little reason has been given, but it is most likely due to security and censorship concerns.
Syria WhatsApp ban:
Internet censorship in Syria is extensive, with the war-torn country banning websites for political reasons and arrests people accessing them.
Besides WhatsApp, Syria has also blocked websites like YouTube and Facebook.
UAE WhatsApp ban:
The blocking of voice and video calling through WhatsApp is common, with the promotion of local telecommunication service providers with the supposed reason.
UAE has a history of welcoming residents from countries including India, Pakistan, Bangladesh who frequently use WhatsApp to connect with their family and friends, resulting in the loss in profits for local UAE telecommunication companies.
WhatsApp is blocked in China, but here’s how you can access it
Around the world, people use WhatsApp to send messages to their friends, family, and groups. But not in China. You see, the Chinese government blocked WhatsApp back in 2017. Which means that the residents of China lost the possibility to use the app for video calls, messages, image sharing, and many other things.
If you’re visiting China and you want to stay in touch with WhatsApp users, you’ll need to get around this block. Using a good VPN service is probably your best bet.
If you’re ready to proceed with caution, read on! You’ll learn how certain kinds of specialized anonymity services can allow you to access WhatsApp in China.
How to access WhatsApp in China
- Find a reputable VPN provider that works in China. We recommendNordVPN, now 72% OFF!
- Turn on "Obfuscated Servers." If you're using the mobile app, go to Settings, choose the OpenVPN protocol, and toggle Obfuscated Servers in Advanced Settings.
- Connect to the VPN. Choose a server outside of China and connect.
- Try WhatsApp. Open WhatsApp (or another blocked app) and see if it works. If it doesn’t, you might have to try another provider.
What is a VPN?
Virtual private networks use a variety of tunneling protocols to shuttle traffic from a point on one network to another. Originally, they were intended to allow people to access internal network resources remotely. Companies around the world continue to use VPNs for this purpose.
In addition to securing this type of communication, you can also use a VPN for anonymity. By putting lots of users' traffic through one network, VPNs make it hard to figure out who’s who.
In the case of accessing WhatsApp from China, using a VPN makes it easier to access an external network from within China.
How to choose a VPN for WhatsApp in China
The most important element of accessing any blocked site from within China is choosing the right VPN. The Chinese government quickly shuts down or blocks VPNs, so recommendations are constantly changing. For this reason, we won’t be listing specific solutions.
However, some general policies and suggestions can make the searching process easier:
- Look for recent endorsements of VPN services. A service that worked a year ago might not work today.
- Ask around for services used by westerners. Most WhatsApp users are westerners, and someone else might have already figured out a solution.
- Be prepared to spend some money. Good, reputable VPNs aren’t necessarily cheap, although they aren’t crazy expensive either.
Take a look at our guide with the best VPNs for China to see which is the right choice for you.
Other tools and methods to bypass the Great Firewall
To access WhatsApp in China, you’ll need some kind of tool to make your Internet connection appear to originate from outside of the mainland. People looking to bypass the Great Firewall have developed a number of strategies over the years:
- Open proxies, which simply relay all traffic passing through. This simple circumvention method was largely effective many years ago, but the GFW’s advanced deep packet filtering quickly rendered it ineffective.
- Tor, a far more advanced anonymity tool. While state censors have blocked all entry points into the Tor network, alternative access methods have been developed. Some approaches combine hidden proxies with the Tor network to break through the firewall anonymously.
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Is it dangerous to use a VPN in China?
Possibly. While using a VPN isn’t explicitly illegal, you open yourself up to some risk this way. Even with the use of a VPN, anything you say can be held against you. Chinese authorities are sure to prosecute any speech deemed to be in violation of the law.
When crossing borders or traveling between cities within China, you will likely have to hand over your smartphone. In addition to searching your phone for any potentially illegal content or usage, authorities might delete VPN apps used to bypass the GFW.
While it’s not directly dangerous or illegal to use a VPN within China, you might run into a variety of other concerns. Whatever you do, be careful with your online posts and messages within the country.
How to configure a VPN for complete anonymity
While VPNs are a powerful tool for circumventing censorship and gaining anonymity, they aren’t perfect. You can’t ever gain perfect anonymity with any technology (including a VPN), but you can get pretty close. Here are some suggestions to improve your anonymity while using a VPN:
- Don’t sign into your own accounts. If you log into an account in your name, you’ll instantly deanonymize yourself. If you want to guarantee anonymity, you’ll need to create a separate account, even for WhatsApp.
- Avoid telltale browsing habits. If at all possible, avoid visiting particular sequences of websites that might give away who you are.
What are the alternatives to WhatsApp in China?
If you can’t get WhatsApp working in China or you aren’t interested in assuming the risk, you might be interested in local options instead. Beware, however - Chinese apps like WeChat will offer you no privacy whatsoever.
Why is WhatsApp illegal in China?
WhatsApp is owned by Facebook, which is also blocked in China. Since Facebook is unwilling to give the Chinese government permission to moderate and censor messages on WhatsApp, they blocked it.
In general, the Chinese government seeks to control the information intake of its citizens.
Where else is WhatsApp banned?
WhatsApp is also banned in some other countries, like North Korea, Syria, Iran, the UAE, and Cuba. Over time, these countries might allow it and others might block it depending on political issues in each country.
What are the best methods to unblock WhatsApp in China?
Using a VPN (Virtual Private Network) is one of the safest ways to access many western social media sites and applications, including WhatsApp.
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Accessing WhatsApp Abroad : How to Circumvent the Restrictions
In certain countries, VoIP services such as WhatsApp are blocked. What is the best way to get around those restrictions during your holiday or stay abroad? The best way to circumvent VoIP restrictions is by using a VPN. VPN software allows you to redirect your Internet traffic via a VPN server in another country. This is how you do it:
- Subscribe to a good VPN and create an account.
- Download the VPN software onto your device.
- Log in to the VPN software.
- Choose a VPN server in a country where Whatsapp isn’t blocked.
- You are now able to chat on WhatsApp. In addition to WhatsApp, you can also access other services that may be blocked by your country of residence, such as Skype.
Do you want to start using a VPN for overcoming WhatsApp restrictions? We recommend ExpressVPN. This VPN has a lot of options, offers fast and secure service and has a large number of servers worldwide.
For more information on why WhatsApp is blocked, how a VPN works and tips on how to get around WhatsApp restrictions, read our full article below.
The popular messaging service WhatsApp allows users to securely exchange text messages, videos calls, and files with one another. In a time when data breaches are common, WhatsApp appeals to many people. Unfortunately, WhatsApp is banned in China and the United Arab Emirates and is restricted in multiple other countries. However, it is possible for WhatsApp users to access the service in these countries. Here is an overview of WhatsApp restrictions abroad and how to get around them.
Which Countries Limit WhatsApp and Why?
China has largely banned WhatsApp in recent years. In July 2017, the Chinese government began blocking many WhatsApp functions. These included file sharing, video, and voice chats. China lifted the block a few weeks later. But in September 2017, the government blocked all features of the app. The ban currently remains in place, despite concerns that it disrupts Chinese businesses.
While China’s ban on WhatsApp is well-known, other countries also restrict the app. Qatar and the United Arab Emirates ban WhatsApp, as well as Snapchat and FaceTime. Saudi Arabia limited some features of WhatsApp in the past, especially voice calls, but lifted the ban in 2016. Other countries that temporarily shut down WhatsApp include Brazil, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Egypt and Morocco.
Why Do They Ban WhatsApp?
It’s worth exploring why some countries temporarily banned or shut down WhatsApp. Brazil’s citizens used to have more online freedom. The country even adopted an internet constitution supporting net neutrality in 2014. But in 2015 and 2016, the government blocked WhatsApp twice. This was because the government had a dispute with WhatsApp’s owner Facebook on handing over data to investigate cybercrimes. The Brazilian government has since passed more laws that combat cybercrime. But these laws also limit the internet freedom of many Brazilians.
Turkey blocked WhatsApp in November 2016 after the arrest of members of the Kurdish-backed People’s Democracy Party (PDP). The Turkish government has increasingly resorted to internet censorship. This is mostly to prevent media coverage of certain political events. They claim these actions are to prevent civil unrest. However, they greatly restrict the internet freedom of Turkish citizens.
Saudi Arabia banned voice calls on WhatsApp, Skype and other VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) services prior to 2017. This made it more difficult for Saudi residents to communicate with the outside world. The aim was to restrict the flow of foreign ideas and information into the country. The kingdom lifted that ban in 2017 to promote business and economic growth. The idea that services like WhatsApp and Skype should be restricted to defend against negative influences is shared by China.
In some countries VoIP service blocks and restrictions are implemented as a form of protectionism by telecommunications companies. Whatsapp’s ability to offer free, worldwide voice and video calling has a potentially negative impact on the revenue generated by a telecoms company’s own services. For this reason they block the use of WhatsApp and similar platforms.
WhatsApp Restrictions and the Great Firewall of China
China’s WhatsApp ban is related to the country’s attempts to censor free and open communication. China’s internet censorship program, known as the Great Firewall of China, is one of the most restrictive in the world. The government designed the Firewall to block information that threatens its Communist principles. It also functions to limit the spread of foreign and Western ideas within the country.
WhatsApp is of particular concern to the Chinese government because it has advanced encryption features. The encryption technology prevents third parties from seeing conversations and messages sent over WhatsApp. As a result, the government fears that Chinese citizens will exchange anti-Communist content over WhatsApp. This is why the app is restricted along with many other websites.
China has other messaging services such as WeChat, which is similar to WhatsApp but without the encryption feature. Unsurprisingly, services like WeChat are frequently monitored by the government. In addition, WeChat provides information to the Chinese government on request. This practice demonstrates that the government is deeply suspicious of private communication. As a result, China heavily censors its citizens.
How To Get Around These Restrictions
It’s important to understand how governments limit WhatsApp in order to get around these restrictions. When a government decides to block WhatsApp, they notify all the internet service providers (ISPs) in the country. The ISPs are required to block their users’ connections to the app so they can no longer access it. Since all ISPs must comply, the app is blocked on every internet connection in the country.
Despite these bans on WhatsApp, you can access the service using a virtual private network (VPN). You can use VPNs to access banned web content as well. The VPN encrypts your data and transmits it through a proxy server, which assigns you a different IP address. This hides your actual IP address and location and sends your data through another country. In this way, someone in China can get around the WhatsApp block.
Suitable VPN Options to Unblock WhatsApp
To access WhatsApp in countries that limit its use, you need to connect to a VPN service first. Then you can get around the restrictions and use all the app’s features. At the same time, not all VPNs are reliable. You need to find a VPN service with advanced security features, a large network of servers, and fast connection speeds. Here are some VPN options that are well suited to unblocking WhatsApp.
Access WhatsApp with ExpressVPN
ExpressVPN is rated as the best overall VPN service of this moment in terms of speed, reliability, and security. It lets you connect to a network of over 3000 servers in more than 90 countries. This means you can get around WhatsApp blocks in many countries, including China. In fact, ExpressVPN is one of the best VPNs you can use when visiting China.
There are many different security features on ExpressVPN to keep you safe as you use WhatsApp. The features include 256-bit encryption to protect your data, DNS leak protection, and a kill switch to stop data from being transmitted over an unprotected connection. Additional features include an IP checker and a no-logs policy to further protect your private data.
This service is also notable for its high speeds, which allow you to send texts, messages and voice calls through WhatsApp without delays. It’s also fairly easy to navigate and install, which makes it a good choice for VPN novices as well as more experienced users.
- Very easy to use VPN
- Perfect for anonymous browsing, downloading, and streaming (i.e. Netflix)
- 3000+ servers in 94 countries
Access WhatsApp with NordVPN
NordVPN is very safe and fast. Their no-logs policy and their wide selection of servers make it a very attractive VPN for a more than reasonable price. Moreover, the VPN is perfect to stay completely anonymous online. NordVPN has lots of extra options to improve your online safety which definitely makes them the safest premium VPN provider.
- Excellent protection and a large network of servers
- Nice and pleasing application
- No logs
Using VPNs in China
Regardless of which option you select, if you are traveling to China there are additional considerations. If you’re planning on using a VPN in China, remember to choose your provider carefully and download the VPN before you leave home. This is because China also bans VPN services. By following these steps, you should have no problem using WhatsApp in China.
Many countries restrict services like WhatsApp for a variety of reasons. Some nations like China worry about people sending anti-government messages. Or they are concerned with keeping unwanted influences away from their citizens. Temporary WhatsApp bans often happen during periods of civil unrest or anti-government protests. Many times countries resort to censorship to reduce unrest or riots. In any case, a government’s willingness to restrict its citizens’ freedom is a very controversial practice.
The good news is that despite government restrictions, citizens and visitors alike can still access WhatsApp. If you purchase a VPN from a reputable provider, you have all you need to use WhatsApp abroad. This also goes for other apps, like TikTok and Facebook. As long as you set up the VPN before you leave home, it’s possible to get around restrictions in any country.
How to get around WhatsApp restrictions: Frequently Asked Questions
Would you like to know more on how to circumvent WhatsApp restrictions while traveling? Below we have made a list with Frequently Asked Questions. Please click on a question to see the answer!
Why is WhatsApp blocked in some countries?
In some countries VoIP services are blocked as a form of protectionism by telecommunications companies. Whatsapp’s ability to offer free, worldwide voice calling has a potentially negative impact on the revenue generated by a telecoms company’s own services. For this reason they block the use of WhatsApp and similar platforms. Another reason for blocking WhatsApp is government censorship.
How can I circumvent WhatsApp blocks while traveling?
You can use a VPN connection to get WhatsApp working again. Once you are connected to a server in another country, you also gain the freedom of that country. You will receive a corresponding IP address and from that moment on you are digitally located in that other country. If you are connected to a server in a country where it is permitted to use WhatsApp, you also have access to this service.
What is the best VPN to access WhatsApp?
ExpressVPN is rated as the best overall VPN service of this moment in terms of speed, reliability and security. It lets you connect to a network of over 3000 servers in more than 90 countries. You can get around WhatsApp blocks in many countries. There are different security features on ExpressVPN to keep you safe as you use WhatsApp.