There isn’t much Internet access at all in North Korea, but for several years, Instagram and other social networks have been available to foreigners visiting the country. That may be changing, however, as reports filter out of the isolated communist nation that Instagram has been blocked.
Foreigners using SIM cards from the North Korean wireless carrier Koryolink are seeing the error message “Warning! You can’t connect to this website because it’s in blacklist site” when they open the Instagram account, according to the Associated Press. The AP reports that the English text is accompanied by a Korean-language warning about “harmful content.”
The messages aren’t limited to the mobile app. They have been appearing for the past five days on the Instagram website. Some phones will still load the app after the warning message disappears, but access is limited.
North Korea is notorious for limiting its citizens’ access to the outside world, cracking down on many forms of free speech and censoring content that could threaten the regime of Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un. But Kim’s regime recently relaxed longstanding Internet bans by letting foreigners access Korean carriers’ 3G networks. The AP interviewed a tourism company CEO who said her guides used Instagram to chronicle their trips through the country.
The AP suggested that Instagram could have been blocked because foreigners used it to share photos of a June 11 fire at one of the country’s luxury hotels in Pyongyang.
Other social networks do not appear to be affected by whatever is happening to Instagram. The photo-sharing service, which is owned by Facebook, has not commented on the service disruption.
Illustration via Max Fleishman