China continues its disturbing trend of social media crackdowns as pro-democracy protests flare in Hong Kong. Web services, such as Blocked In China, who monitor the government's abusive censorship, confirms that the blackout spreads across the country.

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Up until this point, Facebook's image sharing application had pretty much avoided government censors. Instead, China has often targeted Google services, which we saw this year as the 25th anniversary of the Tienanmen Square protests approached. Other small incidences have affected Google in the past few years.

Reuters reports that this Instagram block isn't a complete shutdown as users can still post to the website in Hong Kong and viewers outside of the country can see the posts, but no one inside the country can access the site, which is probably the point. Most Instagram posts were tagged with #OccupyHK or #OccupyCentral. This last handle was also blocked on China's Twitter equivalent, Weibo. Of course, social media isn't the only avenue of communication. There are currently dozens of ongoing livestreams of the protests, including aerial drone coverage.

Vox has reported a comprehensive look at the this slow-simmering conflict, which dates back decades:

This began in 1997, when the United Kingdom handed over Hong Kong, one of its last imperial possessions, to the Chinese government. Hong Kong had spent over 150 years under British rule; it had become a fabulously wealthy center of commerce and had enjoyed, while not full democracy, far more freedom and democracy than the rest of China. So, as part of the handover, the Chinese government in Beijing promised to let Hong Kong keep its special rights and its autonomy — a deal known as "one country, two systems."

In 2017, Hong Kong was promised a democratically elected leader, but in true Darth Vader fashion, Beijing has altered the deal. As Vox says, in August the government stated that Hong Kong would get a vote but from a list of pre-approved candidates. Not quite the same thing.

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As for the current social media blackout, Instagram has yet to confirm or make any official statement regarding the matter. [Reuters]

Image by Anthony Kwan/Getty Images