Apple Accused of Bowing to Chinese Censors

Kelley Robertson
July 31, 2017

A search Saturday showed that a number of the most popular foreign virtual-private networks, also known as VPNs, which give users access to the unfiltered Internet in China, were no longer accessible on the company's app store there.

App maker Express VPN said in a blog post that its app was removed from the China Apple Store, and it noted that "preliminary research indicates that all major VPN apps for iOS [Apple operating systems] have been removed".

China users with billing addresses in other countries will still be able to access VPN apps from other branches of the App Store.

As Reuters reported, the Great Firewall, China's internet censorship apparatus, had been upgraded with new capabilities that include VPN services getting hit by the most sophisticated attacks from China to date, messaging apps getting interfered by the government and so on.

Customers wait for the opening of an Apple store in Shenyang, Liaoning province, February 28, 2015. It was told that those VPNs that are approved would only use government infrastructure.

"We have been required to remove some VPN apps in China that do not meet the new regulations", the company said.

Two affected companies, ExpressVPN and Star VPN, claim that all major VPN apps for iOS have been pulled.

The Internet is completely in control of the government and more regulation is put in place before Communist Party congress that would be held in August.

"We are troubled to see Apple aiding China's censorship efforts..." According to a report by the New York Times, numerous most popular such apps are now missing from the Chinese App Store.

But in January, the Chinese government issued an order requiring all VPN services to receive a stamp of official approval.

Leonid Levin, head of Duma's information policy committee, said the law is not intended to impose restrictions on law-abiding citizens but is meant only to block access to "unlawful content", Russia's RIA news agency reported.

China, Apple's largest market outside the United States, pledged to crack down on unapproved VPNs and restricted other online content as part of a 14-month campaign to "clean up" the Internet.

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