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Apple Accused of Bowing to Chinese Censors

31 July 2017, 01:11 | Yvette Williams

Screenshot of the notification ExpressVPN received from Apple about the removal of ExpressVPN’s iOS app from the China App Store

Screenshot of the notification ExpressVPN received from Apple about the removal of ExpressVPN's iOS app from the China App Store

According to a new report, nearly all major VPN apps on the App Store in China have been removed by Apple.

Another provider, Star VPN, tweeted that its app had also been removed from the China-based Apple App Store.

App maker Express VPN said in a blog post that its app was removed from the China Apple Store, and it noted that "preliminary research indicates that all major VPN apps for iOS [Apple operating systems] have been removed".

ExpressVPN said that it was disappointed to see Apple "aiding China's censorship agents", and condemned the removals.

The apps only appear to be removed from app stores connected to billing addresses in mainland China, Apple's largest market outside of the United States. VPNs allowed users to circumvent the "Great Firewall", China's intricate system of internet filters that is aimed at restricting access to overseas websites.

In a statement on Sunday, an Apple spokeswoman confirmed it will remove apps that don't comply with the law from its China App Store, including services based outside the country.

Apple recently named the new managing director for China in its latest move to localize product features.

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While internet crackdowns often peak every five years, ahead of a key Chinese Communist Party congress, this year's efforts cover fresh ground, a likely indication that stricter controls of things like VPNs will persist after the congress this autumn.

Golden Frog, a company that makes security software, told the New York Times that its app also had been taken down from the China App Store.

This is certainly not the first concession Apple has made to retain access to the Asian country's population of almost 1.4 billion people; Apple is building a local data center in China to accommodate new cybersecurity rules.

"We are extremely disappointed that Apple has bowed to pressure", said Yokubaitis. It comes into force on November 1.

Internet providers in Russian Federation will also be required to block access to VPNs and proxies under the new law.

Earlier this week, China tightened its grip over messaging service in the country, as many WhatsApp users have been unable to continue to send or receive images, videos or even text messages.



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