According to various internet censorship tracking organisations, Instagram appears to be blocked in mainland China after photos of pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong circulated widely.
The websites viewdns.info and www.blockedinchina.net said the photo-sharing app was blocked Monday, while greatfirewallofchina.org said Instagram could not be accessed on servers in Shenzhen, Beijing, Heilongjiang, Inner Mongolia and Yunnan.
“We’re looking into it,” stated Charlene Chian, a spokeswoman for Facebook, Instagram’s parent company.
The blocking of the site coincided with the escalation of confrontations between pro-democracy protesters and police on Sunday.
Students and other protesters flooded Hong Kong’s streets in the weeks following Beijing’s decision in late August to impose limits on how leaders would be elected in Hong Kong. Police officers used tear gas and pepper spray to disperse the protesters.
Meanwhile, Instagram users shared more than 7,700 photos related to the protest under the hashtag #occupycentral. Some of the pictures showed students carrying umbrellas and wearing masks amidst clouds of gas.
While blocking Instagram would prevent users in mainland China from viewing the photos, users from Hong Kong and other countries would not be affected.
Instagram’s censorship adds to the growing list of websites blocked in mainland China. Twitter, Facebook and YouTube have been blocked for years, while almost all of the online services provided by Google have been blocked since June.
Instagram’s abbreviation “Ins” emerged as one of the top trending topics on Chinese microblogging site Weibo, with many users in mainland China saying that they cannot access the pictures on the app.
“This country is turning into North Korea,” commented one Weibo user in a post that was later deleted.