Encrypted messaging app Signal appears to be blocked in China alongside Jack Ma’s Alibaba browser, as Beijing cracks down on social-media platforms

jack ma alibaba
Alibaba founder Jack Ma in January 2018.

  • China has reportedly blocked Signal and an Alibaba browser as it cracks down on social-media apps.
  • Signal users in China couldn’t send messages on the app from Monday evening.
  • Alibaba’s browser was pulled on Tuesday after the group was accused of misleading advertising.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Signal, a messaging app that rivals WhatsApp, and a internet browser made by Jack Ma’s Alibaba appear to have been blocked in China, as Beijing continues to crack down on tech firms and social media sites.

Signal users in China reported on other platforms that they had difficulties working the app from Monday evening, including not being able to send messages, the Washington Post reported.

Despite this, users can still access Signal via a virtual private network (VPN), which hides users’ locations.

“Signal has been walled,” users wrote on the Chinese microblogging site Weibo, the Post reported.

The app is still available for download via Apple’s China App Store, CNBC reported, but it’s unclear whether it will remain on the site for much longer.

Signal didn’t immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

The free messaging app offers end-to-end encryption, making it very difficult for third parties, including authorities, to see messages sent on the app. Signal is popular among tech giants, cybersecurity experts, journalists, and government officials.

Alibaba UC Browser pulled from app stores

Ecommerce group Alibaba had its internet browser pulled from Chinese app stores on Tuesday, the Financial Times first reported. Chinese authorities accused group’s UC Browser of promoting misleading online ads that directed patients to private hospitals instead of public ones.

App stores operated by Chinese tech companies including Huawei, Xiaomi, and Tencent have blocked downloads or removed the browser, the FT reported.

It’s the latest hit to Alibaba’s founder, Jack Ma. Last year, Chinese authorities halted a $37 billion initial public offering of Ant Group, Alibaba’s fintech affiliate.

Buzzy social media app Clubhouse was also blocked in China on February 8, after people flocked to it to discuss political and sensitive topics, such as Xinjiang’s Uighur detention camps. Clubhouse conversations aren’t recorded, making them difficult to monitor, and access is available by invitation only.

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A second US judge just ruled to block the Trump administration’s attempt to ban TikTok

tik tok iphone speaking
  • A second US judge issued an injunction blocking the US Commerce Department from banning the mobile video app TikTok. 
  • US District Judge Carl Nichols in Washington issued the injunction more than a month after a Pennsylvania judge delivered a similar ruling. 
  • In September, Nichols also separately blocked the Commerce Department from banning Apple’s and Google’s app stores from offering TikTok for downloads by new users. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) A second US judge late on Monday granted a preliminary injunction blocking the US Commerce Department from imposing restrictions on Chinese-owned short video sharing app TikTok that would have effectively barred its use in the United States.

US District Judge Carl Nichols in Washington issued an order more than a month after US judge Wendy Beetlestone in Pennsylvania blocked the same restrictions that were set to take effect on Nov. 12.

Nichols on Sept. 27 had separately blocked the Commerce Department from banning Apple Inc and Alphabet Inc’s Google app stores from offering the app for downloads by new users.

TikTok and Commerce did not immediately comment.

Nichols, who was named to the bench by President Donald Trump last year, said the Commerce Department “likely overstepped” its legal authority in issuing the effective TikTok ban “and acted in an arbitrary and capricious manner by failing to consider obvious alternatives.”

Nichols’ order enjoins the agency from barring data hosting within the United States for TikTok, content delivery services, and other technical transactions.

The court’s opinion also added that “if the app was shut down (even briefly) but that shutdown was later held to be unlawful, TikTok would not be able to recover the harm to its user base.”

There was also concern that without an injunction TikTok “will be unable to recruit and retain employees to build – or even maintain – its business. “

On Friday, the Trump administration declined to grant TikTok owner ByteDance a new extension of Trump’s August order requiring it to divest TikTok’s US assets, but talks will continue, Reuters reported.

The Treasury Department said late on Friday the government “is engaging with ByteDance to complete the divestment and other steps necessary to resolve the national security risks.”

The Trump administration contends TikTok poses national security concerns as the personal data of U.S. users could be obtained by China’s government. TikTok, which has over 100 million U.S. users, denies the allegation.

Under pressure from the US government, ByteDance has been in talks for months to finalize a deal with Walmart Inc and Oracle Corp to shift TikTok’s US assets into a new entity.

A US appeals court will hear arguments on Nichols’ app store ban injunction on Dec. 14.

(Reuters reporting by David Shepardson with additional reporting by Eric Beech; Reuters editing by Chris Reese)

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