China strengthens Internet censorship by blocking Skype

The email application owned by Microsoft has been blocked in China for a month. Skype censorship is far from an isolated case as Beijing has been introducing strict Internet control in recent months.

Facebook, Twitter, Google, Instagram, YouTube … And now, Skype. The Internet-based phone application owned by Microsoft is no longer available for download on smartphone in China. The censorship, which would last for a month, has caused an uproar among Chinese users, according to the New York Times. Skype is no longer downloadable from the Chinese App Store and local Android stores, AFP reported. But users who already have the app on their phone can still continue to use it normally for now.

Skype has been “temporarily removed” from the App Store, a spokesman for Microsoft told the New York Times Wednesday. The company information “is working to reinstall the application as soon as possible”.
“We have been informed by the Ministry of Public Security that a number of VoIP applications are not compliant with local laws, so these apps have been removed from the App Store in China,” he said. Apple in a statement sent by email.

The California giant did not specify which laws these applications had violated. This is not the first time that Apple complies with the requirements of the communist regime: in January, the Apple crunch removed from the App Store the application of the New York Times at the request of local authorities.
Storage of data on Chinese soil

Beijing, which has long imposed strict control of the Internet, implemented since June a controversial law on cybersecurity. Adopted last November, this measure allows the government to strengthen its hold on the foreign tech companies present in its territory by introducing the obligation for them to store the data of their users on Chinese soil.

“China is an Internet power but it is one of the countries that faces the greatest risk of security breaches, it needs urgently establish and perfect the legal systems for network security”, Yang Heging, an official of the Chinese parliament, was quoted as saying by Reuters.

Skype is not an isolated case
The WhatsApp messaging application was also the target of an intermittent blocking last month at the time of the Congress of the Communist Party in power. The blocking of Skype is therefore far from an isolated case. The blocking of Western Internet sites, like Facebook, can be bypassed by software called “virtual private networks” (VPN). This technology makes it possible to connect two computer systems remotely via a virtual “tunnel”, allowing individuals to bypass censorship established on the Internet. For example, many Chinese intellectuals and dissidents use VPNs to post to Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube from within the country. While China has the largest number of Internet users in the world – 731 million at the end of 2016 – the country is known for its censorship policy, known as “Great Firewall of China” (in French, Great Wall of China Electronic ). China was the first country to drastically restrict the use of VPN last January.

The withdrawal of the Skype app applications comes before the organization in early December by China of its fourth World Internet Conference. This annual event is held in the east of the country in the presence of several global technology giants, but is criticized by human rights organizations for promoting increased web control.

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