Andrei Soldatov: The Kremlin's VPN ban has KGB roots

03 August, 2017, 00:58 | Author: Delbert Rhodes
  • Specifically this image the Russian government considers it'extremism and sharing it is illegal carrying a maximum five year prison sentence

Last weekend Apple removed all major VPN apps from the App Store in China. Essentially, as requirement for someone to operate a VPN, they have to have a license from the government there.

Apple CEO Tim Cook on Tuesday defended his company's decision to stop offering special apps that let Chinese users circumvent the country's internet restrictions. The fact that many VPNs remain could mean the government is focused on regulating the VPN industry, not eliminating it altogether. "In the case of China, the law is also very clear there".

"We believe in engaging with governments even when we disagree", he said.

Apple's decision to remove the VPN apps in China was widely criticized, with many saying it was aiding and abetting Chinese censorship.

An employee said Sinnet sent emails Friday and again Monday warning clients that they must eliminate any content that violates Chinese laws.

"Cook recently said 'accessibility is a human right.' If Apple views accessibility as a human right, we would hope Apple will likewise recognize Internet access as a human right and would choose human rights over profits", wrote one service, Golden Frog, in its company blog post.

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Taken together, the recent moves by Apple and Amazon show how Beijing is increasingly forcing America's biggest tech companies to play by Chinese rules if they want to maintain access to the market.

Chinese authorities have clamped down on everything from internet browsing to live-streaming websites and social media in the run-up to an important Communist Party conclave in the fall, at which most of the country's top leaders are set to be replaced. The People's Republic of China has issued a blanket ban of common websites like Facebook, Google, and many western media outlets, all of which are accessible within Russian Federation.

The Chinese government is in indirect agreement with Russia's, after directing telecommunications companies earlier in July to obstruct users from accessing VPNs. "We the operators also check routinely if any of our users use these softwares or store illegal content".

While Amazon and Microsoft both manage cloud services in China, homegrown rival companies such as Alibaba beat them in terms of size as the e-commerce giant has its own cloud services, which have developed at a fast pace in China. The state doesn't really respect the idea of freedom on the internet, according to Freedom House, a nonprofit that researches human rights and ranks countries based on their appreciation of liberty.

Due to the extensive censorship demands made on foreign internet companies, Google formally withdrew from China in 2010 - although since then, the company has had multiple discussions with the country's leadership about returning.

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