What you need to know
- Signal may have been banned in China.
- Reports indicate the service has stopped working as of March 16.
- The app is still available on the App Store, but no longer works without a VPN.
There are multiple reports that the encrypted messaging app Signal has stopped working in mainland China, leading some to suspect the app has been banned by the government.
Chinese users of the instant messenger Signal knew that the good times wouldn't last long. The app, which is used for encrypted conversations, is unavailable in mainland China as of the morning of March 16, a test by TechCrunch shows. The website of the app has been banned in mainland China since March 15, according to censorship tracking website Greatfire.org.
According to Bloomberg, users are unable to access the service without the use of a VPN, frequently harnessed by users in the country who want to access banned services like Gmail. As that report notes, it is unclear whether Signal's ban is permanent:
It isn't immediately clear if this is a permanent ban, as Chinese regulators have been known to sometimes ramp up controls as a trial run only to ratchet them down later. The Cyberspace Administration of China didn't respond immediately to a faxed request for comment Tuesday morning. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian declined to comment when asked about access to the app at a regular press briefing on Tuesday.
The app remains available for download on the iOS App Store, however, as mentioned can't be used without a VPN, you can see our roundup of the best iPhone and iPad VPN services here. The app is much more popular on iOS than Android in the country because third-party operated Android stores adhere very closely to government laws and don't list Signal to begin with.