Signal Is Reportedly No Longer Working in China

By Bill Toulas / March 16, 2021

According to Reuters, Signal has stopped working in China all of a sudden, and users in the Asian country can only access the service via VPN (virtual private network) tools right now. The app itself is yet to announce anything on the reported block, and they may be trying to appreciate the situation before they rush to any statements.

The Chinese state isn’t exactly happy to accept applications that hide user communications and don’t allow scrutiny or even support it in any way or form. Thus, this action against an app that is widely trusted by people who value their privacy doesn’t come as a surprise.

Although no action against Signal has been officially confirmed by the Cyberspace Administration of China, it is considered certain that this is not a case of an outage caused by a technical problem or anything like that. After all, the app was already banned on all third-party Android stores in China, so the state's stance against it has been clearly defined for a long time now.

Signal has amassed a large number of new users after the snafu caused by WhatsApp’s new privacy terms that obliged users to accept that some of their private data may end up in the hands of its parent company, Facebook. When apps like Signal get bigger, regimes that generally don’t favor freedom of speech get more reasons to target them more aggressively. In China alone, Signal has 510,000 downloads on iOS, while it has a total of 100 million users across all platforms worldwide.

The Chinese state would probably prefer that its citizens jump to Tencent’s WeChat, a local offering that obliges with the strict requirements of the national laws. WeChat is believed to be so tightly connected to the Communist Party of China that India included it in its Summer app bans. WeChat is already the biggest chat platform in China, but there’s admittedly a significant number of people who still slip through the cracks.

If you are in China and you’re looking to use a VPN tool to access Signal or anything else on the internet, you may check this list with five great choices for you to pick. The legal, and by extension, the technical situation in China affects VPN usage, so you need to consider the risks involved in using one too. In general, as long as you avoid free VPN tools, you should be safe.

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