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China Blocks Foreign-Owned Instant Messaging Services

HONG KONG – Chinese authorities Thursday confirmed that they have blocked use of foreign-owned Internet messaging services including Line and KakaoTalk.

China’s State Internet Information Office said that the move was designed to help fight terrorism. Messaging and video services have been used to spread information on bomb making.

Both services are Korean-owned, with Line developed by the Japanese subsidiary of Korea’s Naver Corporation. Korea’s Ministry of Science, ICT, and Future Planning said that it had been informed by China of the block. Users have reported disruption for over a month.

Other services named by the SIIO notice include Didi, Talk Box and Vower. It is unclear whether WeChat is also affected.

The move quickly sparked online comments suggesting that China is further attempting to quash public dissent on issues as various as democracy in Hong Kong and separatism in restive Xinjiang province.

While not confirming the detailed purpose, the SIIO itself said that only [Chinese-regulated)]media agencies are allowed to carry current affairs news.

China has long banned Facebook, Skype, Twitter and Google Talk, blocking them by means of its so-called ‘Great Firewall.’

Chinese-operated messaging services WeChat and Sina Weibo operate within China’s censorship regime.

Other commentators sees the move as a stepping up of protectionist policies intended to push back Western technology firms and promote Chinese software and appliances.

Having previously banned installation of Windows 8 operating systems on government-procured computers, the Chinese government this week launched a probe into Microsoft, seeming to accuse it of monopolistic practices. In a separate move this week it said that government agencies should no longer buy Apple’s iPads and MacBook laptops, because of potential security breaches. In another move this week, China also blocked use of foreign-developed anti-virus services Kaspersky and Symantech.

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