One of the latest western social media apps available in China, Signal, has now gone dark in the country, according to reports from TechCrunch and Reuters. The encrypted app, often used by journalists and others in need of rock-solid privacy, has not been available in mainland China as of early this morning. Signal’s website, meanwhile, was blocked in the country on March 15.
TechCrunch notes that Signal is still available for download from Apple’s App Store in China, which means the government hasn’t ordered Apple to remove it and it can still be used through a VPN. The app has been installed more than 500,000 times nationwide – a paltry sum compared to the 1.1 billion users of China’s dominant messaging app, WeChat – but it’s still a significant number given the strict internet laws in China. The government has blocked other popular social media apps like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram years ago.
Signal’s popularity has increased worldwide recently, especially after WhatsApp updated its terms to allow Facebook parents to share user data. The app has stopped working in China previously without VPN to start working again, Reuters noticed, so it is not clear whether the current failure will be permanent.