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Chinese internet service providers started blocking access to WhatsApp.

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San Francisco, Sep 26 (IANS) Instant messaging service WhatsApp has been largely blocked in China, the media reported.

The Open Observatory of Network Interference (OONI), a global observation network for detecting censorship, surveillance and traffic manipulation, suggested on Monday night that Chinese internet service providers started blocking access to WhatsApp on September 23, reports CNN.

Public reports on Twitter indicated that WhatsApp, which is owned by the US-based social media giant Facebook, became inaccessible for some people on September 19.

Over the last few months, there were a number of WhatsApp disruptions in China.

However, WhatsApp has not made an official announcement on the development.

China has already blocked access to a number of internet companies, including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Google.

Some people access these services through virtual private networks (VPN), or with tools that disguise internet traffic to circumvent censorship. But the Chinese government has launched a crack down on VPNs this year.

According to Timothy Heath, senior international defence research analyst at the RAND Corporation, the Chinese government does not like that WhatsApp uses strong encryption.

“The government wants to monitor internet communications, and therefore it’s trying to steer its people to use technology that can be accessed and monitored by the government,” Heath told CNN.

Earlier this month, WeChat, a popular chat service in China, notified users of its policies to comply with government requests for information. (ians)

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Facebook Cannot Regulate Itself: U.S. Lawmakers

Now we know that once they knew the truth, top @Facebook executives did everything they could to hide it from the public.

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Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., center, talks with Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., right, during a House Judiciary Committee meeting on Capitol Hill. VOA

Democratic U.S. Representative David Cicilline, expected to become the next chairman of House Judiciary Committee’s antitrust panel, said on Wednesday that Facebook cannot be trusted to regulate itself and Congress should take action.

Cicilline, citing a report in the New York Times on Facebook’s efforts to deal with a series of crises, said on Twitter: “This staggering report makes clear that @Facebook executives will always put their massive profits ahead of the interests of their customers.”

“It is long past time for us to take action,” he said. Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said a year ago that the company would put its “community” before profit, and it has doubled its staff focused on safety and security issues since then. Spending also has increased on developing automated tools to catch propaganda and material that violates the company’s posting policies.

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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies before a House Energy and Commerce hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington about the use of Facebook data to target American voters in the 2016 election and data privacy. VOA

Other initiatives have brought increased transparency about the administrators of pages and purchasers of ads on Facebook. Some critics, including lawmakers and users, still contend that Facebook’s bolstered systems and processes are prone to errors and that only laws will result in better performance. The New York Timessaid Zuckerberg and the company’s chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, ignored warning signs that the social media company could be “exploited to disrupt elections, broadcast viral propaganda and inspire deadly campaigns of hate around the globe.” And when the warning signs became evident, they “sought to conceal them from public view.”

“We’ve known for some time that @Facebook chose to turn a blind eye to the spread of hate speech and Russian propaganda on its platform,” said Cicilline, who will likely take the reins of the subcommittee on regulatory reform, commercial and antitrust law when the new, Democratic-controlled Congress is seated in January.

Also Read: Social Media Laws Should Be Tightened: Germany

“Now we know that once they knew the truth, top @Facebook executives did everything they could to hide it from the public by using a playbook of suppressing opposition and propagating conspiracy theories,” he said.

“Next January, Congress should get to work enacting new laws to hold concentrated economic power to account, address the corrupting influence of corporate money in our democracy, and restore the rights of Americans,” Cicilline said. (VOA)