China Blocks VPNs

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China has boosted its Internet censorship by blocking virtual private networks (VPNs), which permit users to bypass government censorship and access blocked websites.

By blocking VPNs, China has caused headaches for multinational companies operating in China who rely on VPNs to conduct business, as well as ordinary Chinese citizens who rely on VPNs to keep in touch with the outside world.

In China, websites such as Google, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Netflix, and thousands of others are blocked by government censors. With VPNs, these sites became accessible for a small monthly fee, usually around US$8.

Whereas government censorship used to be denied by Chinese officials, it is increasingly being openly defended by the Communist Party and other government officials as a matter of national security.

“Authorities apparently cannot ignore those services as they affect our cyberspace sovereignty,” Qin An of the China Institute for Innovation and Development Strategy told the English-language edition of China’s state-run Global Times on Thursday. “For instance, a shortcut has to be blocked since it could be used for some ulterior purposes although it might affect others who use it in a right way.”

In an editorial also published in the Global Times, the Chinese government indicated in true doublespeak fashion that, despite its recent beefed up censorship efforts, it believes Internet censorship will show a “downward trend.”

The trend observed by those outside of China, however, indicates that China’s Great Firewall of Internet censorship is on the rise. Last June, China blocked Google completely, as it did to Gmail in December.

In 2014, 56% of American companies operating in China said that Internet censorship was having a negative or somewhat negative impact on their ability to conduct business, according to a survey conducted by the American Chamber of Commerce in China. In 2010, only 39% of companies felt censorship was a problem.

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