As mobile users try to evade censorship in China through software, the government appears to be trying a new technique to head off such attempts. The New York Times reports that in China's Xinjiang territory, users of foreign messaging apps like WhatsApp have had their phone service shut down entirely.
Users told to visit "cyberpolice"
According to the Times, the shutdown is preceded by a text message: "Due to police notice, we will shut down your cellphone number within the next two hours in accordance with the law. If you have any questions, please consult the cyberpolice affiliated with the police station in your vicinity as soon as possible."
Police reportedly informed at least one person that the Chinese government had begun shutting down not only users of the apps, but also people employing VPNs, and those who have failed to register their account with the proper identification. As the Times reports, this isn't the first time Xinjiang has been the center of censorship action: in 2009, following riots, the internet was shut off for nearly six months. Nor is it the first time the government has cracked down on messaging apps.
It's unclear how far the service shutdowns have extended in the region, but it does suggest the Chinese government is reaching new frontiers in crackdowns on VPNs and messaging services.