Big Trouble in Digital China as Several Sites Suffer Accessibility Issues

People using smartphones in subway trainSeveral foreign companies are reporting experiencing accessibility issues for their services in China, including messaging apps Line and KakaoTalk, Microsofts storage service OneDrive and the Yahoo-owned photo sharing site Flickr.

Line and KakaoTalk, both of which are popular in the APAC region, have suffered differing levels of disruption. According to The Next Web, Line began suffering accessibility problems on 1 July, with users unable to send messages or access the companys official website from locations within China.. The app appears to have resumed normal service now, although service in China is reportedly spotty.

According to a spokesperson for KakaoTalk, while existing users could still message, call and share pictures with friends, certain functions such as adding new friends, the use of certain emoticons and checking notices became unavailable for unknown reasons, and again users were unable to access the company website or the desktop version of the app.

Meanwhile, on 3 July censorship monitoring organisation GreatFire noted that both Flickr and Microsofts OneDrive had become inaccessible in China too. GreatFires Charlie Smith said the reason behind the issues was most likely the Chinese government clamping down on photo sharing in the wake of pro-democracy demonstrations in Hong Kong, which occurred earlier this week.

“Line set up local operations with a local partner and then abided by the daily censorship directives,” said Smith. “But in the end, their service still gets attacked by the authorities. So the question clearly now is why work with the authorities in the first place?

“Foreign internet companies who have not yet made their mark on China should be paying close attention to what is happening now. There are ways to offer your service inside China without having to self-censor or play the censorship game and without getting your website or mobile app blocked.”