The Chinese government’s crackdown on the internet continues with the latest in apple news that the App giant is removing all its major VPN apps from the App store in China. These Apps were being used by internet users to overcome the censorship system in the Country. However the app continues to be available for users across the world outside of China, though the process to create such an App Store account in a different country is still unknown to many users, making it unlikely to fill the void of the missing Chinese app.
One company, ExpressVPN, posted a letter it had received from Apple saying that its app had been taken down “because it includes content that is illegal in China.”
Another tweeted from its official account that its app had been removed.
A search on 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.
ExpressVPN wrote in its blog about the apple news that it was “surprising and unfortunate.”
The apple news signal a new push by China to control the internet. In the past, the Great Firewall has used technology to disrupt VPNs, and Beijing has shut down Chinese VPNs and even aimed a huge cyber attack at a well-known foreign site hosting code that circumvented the filters. But they also mark the first time China has successfully used its influence with a major foreign tech platform, like Apple, to push back against the software makers.
A 2016 Washington Post article noted the Chinese government was willing to tolerate some VPN use, because it is“essential that domestic and foreign businesses be able to access information across borders, and it keeps the English-speaking elite happy to allow them a small window on the world.” But in January, the Chinese government issued an order requiring all VPN services to receive a stamp of official approval. It then moved to disrupt the VPN services most popular with consumers.
“We’re disappointed in this development, as it represents the most drastic measure the Chinese government has taken to block the use of VPNs to date, and we are troubled to see Apple aiding China’s censorship efforts,” ExpressVPN, one of the companies impacted by the removal, wrote in a blog post. “ExpressVPN strongly condemns these measures, which threaten free speech and civil liberties.”