Signal, an app that is used for encrypted conversations, has been banned in mainland China since March 15, according to the censorship tracking website Greatfire.org.
The chat app was one of the few western social networks present in China without a virtual private network. Like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, the top social media websites have been blocked in the country. Tiktok is also banned in China, and the Chinese have their own Tiktok app, called Douyin.
Currently, Signal is available for download on the app’s China Store. This indicates that Apple hasn’t received an order from the government to remove the app. Moreover, the app has a rating of 4.9 out of 5 on the Chinese App Store.
The Chinese Android stores are operated by several third-party tech firms, which comply with the local censors and don’t list Signal. Moreover, Google Play isn’t accessible in the country.
The iOS version of Signal has been installed around 510,000 times in China. Moreover, according to the app analytics firm Sensor Tower, the app recently reached around 100 million downloads across Apple’s App Store.
There has been a sudden increase in both Signal and Telegram downloads recently. As of January 2021, Telegram has had 2.7 million installs on China’s App Store. On the other hand, WhatsApp had 9.5 million downloads, and Signal had 458,000 downloads. Like Signal, both Telegram and WhatsApp are present on the Chinese App Store; however, the access requires virtual private networks.
China’s elaborate Great Firewall has made many internet users expert on censorship prevention. One of the most common talks in the clubs is about App bans.
Although the drop-in audio app wasn’t present in the Chinese App Store, users found a method to install it in Foreign App Stores. This way, they could use it freely until the app’s API was blocked. Even after that, some users found out that they could use the app and enter a chatroom through a VPN.
No one knows whether the Signal ban is permanent. However, the app growth indicates the end of its short life in China.
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