In the past few days, both Apple and Amazon have caved to strict Internet censorship regulations in China.
The New York Times reported recently that Apple had taken steps to remove VPN and anti-censorship apps from its Chinese app store. These apps were used by Chinese citizens to skirt China’s extremely restrictive Internet firewall which blocks many U.S. websites such as Facebook. ExpressVPN recently posted a letter they received from Apple stating that the company’s app had been removed from Apple’s store, “because it includes content that is illegal in China.”
ExpressVPN is just one of the many VPN apps that were removed from the Chinese app store, ExpressVPN stated that their app removal was “surprising and unfortunate,” in a blog post on their website adding, “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.” Similarly the president of Golden Frog, Sunday Yokubaitis, gave his thoughts on their VPN apps removal from the store saying, “We gladly filed an amicus brief in support of Apple in their backdoor encryption battle with the F.B.I.,” he said, “so we are extremely disappointed that Apple has bowed to pressure from China to remove VPN apps without citing any Chinese law or regulation that makes VPN illegal.”
Yokubaitis added, “We view access to the Internet in China as a human rights issue, and I would expect Apple to value human rights over profits.” Apple noted in a statement that the Chinese government announced this year that all developers offering VPN apps must obtain a government license. “We have been required to remove some VPN apps in China that do not meet the new regulations,” Apple said. “These apps remain available in all other markets where they do business.”
Today it was announced that the company operating Amazon’s Web Services in China has told all customers to cease the use of any software that allows Chinese citizens to bypass the Chinese firewall or face the cancellation of their services. The company, Beijing Sinnet Technology, sent emails to their users on Friday and Monday warning them of the new stricter guidelines. The New York Times contacted the company for comment and spoke to a woman with the surname Wang on the Sinnet service hotline who said, “If users don’t comply with the guidance, the offered services and their websites can be shut down. We the operators also check routinely if any of our users use these softwares or store illegal content.”
Wang stated that the emails sent to customers were sent under guidance from the China’s Ministry of Public Security and the country’s telecom regulator. Amazon has currently not responded to request for comment from the New York Times. It seems that the emails from China’s Ministry of Public Security are signs of the country’s plans to widen the net of the Chinese firewall, even more worrying is tech companies willing to cooperate with the communist government’s crackdown on their citizen’s Internet access.