Signal is down in China
Beijing has not made any announcement about blocking the app, but that's not unusual.
The secure messaging app is no longer accessible in China, according to multiple reports by users in the country who said they could only use the app via VPN, or virtual private network, as of March 15.
Beijing has not made any announcement about Signal, but it is standard practice for Chinese authorities to block foreign platforms without discussing the move or explaining their reasoning for doing so.
If Signal's outage is the result of a block, the California-based platform would be the latest foreign app to fall victim to the so-called Great Firewall of Censorship. Clubhouse was blocked in mainland China in early February just days after it caught fire with an elite subset of Chinese users. In that case as well, Beijing made no announcement, and Clubhouse users were left to discover the ban for themselves.=
"It may seem surprising that the app hasn't been blocked until now," Charlie Smith, the pseudonymous founder of GreatFire.org, which tracks Chinese online censorship, told Protocol. "One reason might be that the app did not reach the 'threshold' of popularity that the authorities have set for censorship. Another reason might be that the Signal website doesn't have a Chinese language version."
This bulletin has been updated with a quote from Charlie Smith.
David Wertime is Protocol's executive director. David is a widely cited China expert with twenty years' experience who has served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in China, founded and sold a media company, and worked in senior positions within multiple newsrooms. He also hosts POLITICO's China Watcher newsletter. After four years working on international deals for top law firms in New York and Hong Kong, David co-founded Tea Leaf Nation, a website that tracked Chinese social media, later selling it to the Washington Post Company. David then served as Senior Editor for China at Foreign Policy magazine, where he launched the first Chinese-language articles in the publication's history. Thereafter, he was Entrepreneur in Residence at the Lenfest Institute for Journalism, which owns the Philadelphia Inquirer. In 2019, David joined Protocol's parent company and in 2020, launched POLITICO's widely-read China Watcher. David is a Senior Fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, a Research Associate at the University of Pennsylvania's Center for the Study of Contemporary China, a Member of the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations, and a Truman National Security fellow. He lives in San Francisco with his wife Diane and his puppy, Luna.
Shen Lu is a reporter with Protocol | China. She has spent six years covering China from inside and outside its borders. Previously, she was a fellow at Asia Society's ChinaFile and a Beijing-based producer for CNN. Her writing has appeared in Foreign Policy, The New York Times and POLITICO, among other publications. Shen Lu is a founding member of Chinese Storytellers, a community serving and elevating Chinese professionals in the global media industry.