Another wave of censorship has hit China after this country’s government decided that VPNs (Virtual Private Networks) need to be blocked. The government has ordered telecoms to block access to VPN by February 1st, which will limit the window to the global internet even further.
Many of China’s major telecommunication companies run by the state have already received this order. This includes China Unicom, China Mobile, as well as China Telecom. All of them have to ban people from accessing VPNs, which are usually used for increasing privacy, as well as accessing restricted content.
By enforcing this ban, many web users will lose their access to global online content, which will close their online reach even further.
China has had one of the most restrictive regimes in the world even before this decision. With higher restrictions and censorship, the country has been able to preserve social stability and have a tighter grasp on its people. Long ago, the government introduced the Great Firewall of China, which was strong and firm, but still had many holes.
With the new ban, even those loopholes have been mostly filled, which helps with the Firewall’s original purpose, which is to block access to social networks, but also news sites.
When it comes to VPNs themselves, they were mostly used by businesses who need it in order to access blocked websites. Because of their need for this technology, using it was never really illegal, but instead, it was in a legal gray area. China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology has tried to enforce stronger rules against VPNs back in January.
Their solution was to force companies that depend on wider internet access to limit the use of VPNs to internal use. At least one of the providers has already decided to go against the government. GreenVPN’s decision was to stop providing service after they have received a notice from the government’s regulatory department. The service has officially stopped on July 1st.
As for the multinational companies and individuals that operate within China’s borders, it is still unclear how this decision will affect them. They already had a Cybersecurity Law to deal with, and now, they may have to give Beijing complete access to their tech.
One alternative is for them to employ leased lines which would allow them to access the open internet. However, they would still have to register their usage of these services, which would give China’s government complete record of their business.
Multiple companies have already experienced share drop because of this decision. For example, one provider of data center and networking services by the name of 21Vianet Group Inc. has already experienced a significant drop. Their shares first fell down for 4.1%, and then ended up falling for 2.4% more.
Another internet security company called Westone Information Industry Inc. has felt a similar drop of 1.5% this Tuesday. Vice president of US-China Business Council, Jake Parker, has stated that this new ban will impact individuals and companies alike. Such change is a big deal, especially since the companies were thinking of abandoning operations in China in the past even because of hints that something like this might happen.
China’s telecom companies have either refused to comment or failed to do so at the time of writing.