Instagram blocked in China: Reports

Just over a week after Hong Kong residents took to the streets demanding full democracy for the city, social media site Instagram has been blocked across mainland China, according to reports.
Written by Leon Spencer, Contributor

Popular photo-sharing site Instagram, which claims more than 150 million users worldwide, has been blocked in mainland China as Beijing goes head-to-head with pro-democracy protesters in the former British colony of Hong Kong, according to Reuters.

Reports suggest that many of the images and videos that had been taken and circulated by protesters had been tagged with the phrase "Occupy Central", which was blocked earlier on Sunday on China's version of Twitter, Weibo.

Reuters said in its report that even if the Facebook-owned social networking site is blocked in mainland China, users in Hong Kong should still have access. However, numerous reports, including from Hong Kong-based reporters, suggest that the site has been blocked.

Website blockedinchina.net said that Instagram has likely been blocked in all of mainland China's regions, as has Facebook and Twitter.

While neither Instagram nor the Chinese government have yet provided comment, the circulating reports of Instagram's block in China came as hordes of protesters clashed with riot police after a week of demonstrations.

Organisers indicated that up to 80,000 people packed the streets in the city's Admiralty district on Sunday, with pro-democracy demonstrators in the city's central district taken on by riot police with pepper spray and baton charges, according to ABC News.

The clashes, which have left more than 38 people injured, follow Beijing's rejection last month of Hong Kong residents' demands for the city's people to be able to choose its next leader, with the Chinese capital limiting elections to candidates who are loyal to the ruling administration.

The Chinese government has a long history of censoring the internet and restricting its citizens' access to particular websites and services, including Facebook and Twitter — both of which have been broadly blocked since 2009.

The ruling Communist Party of China has also viewed foreign-owned technology providers with increasing suspicion following the leaking of classified National Security Agency (NSA) documents by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

In June, Chinese Central Television (CCTV), one of the country's leading state television broadcasters, weighed into the Chinese media's mounting attack on US software and hardware systems, with a news report suggesting that Windows 8 is a "potential threat" to China's information security.

Also in June, Chinese state English-language media outlets China Daily and the People's Daily, warned that US-based technology organisations, including Google, Apple, and Microsoft, can become "cybersecurity threats".

Meanwhile, in May, reports emerged that the Chinese government had been urging China's banks to remove high-end servers made by IBM in favour of servers made by a local brand.

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