Apple puts profit and market access ahead of principles.

Apple has bowed pressure from the Chinese government and has admitted it has removed all VPN (Virtual Private Network) services from the Chinese App store. VPNs allow users to bypass China’s so-called “Great Firewall” aimed at restricting access to overseas sites. China’s Great Firewall is one of the largest and most advanced, if not the most advanced, firewall in existence, limiting its citizens access to international websites.

As we reported last week, several of the world’s largest websites and companies are blocked or banned by China: “Some of the more famous websites that have no access to China Facebook itself, Google, Duck Duck Go, The New York Times, The Economist, the BBC, Twitter, and SnapChat. (From what I can gather, literally all porn sites are blocked without exception as well. That’s of no real relevance here. I’m just saying.)”

Shields to maximum, don’t let anything through

The news is another worrying sign that China has increased the rate of its continued crackdown on internet freedom for its citizens. Last week users of the popular messaging app WhatsApp suddenly found that their ability to send multimedia messages had been restricted. 

The move by Apple is another setback for internet users in China who are rapidly finding that their options for bypassing China’s Great Firewall are diminishing. Software made by companies outside of China received messages from Apple over the weekend that their internet filters had been removed from China’s mainland Apple App store.

Planet Express?

The move was first reported by VPN provider ExpressVPN, just one of the providers who no longer have their software listed on the mainland App Store. In a blog post, the company said that “all major VPN apps” including its own, had been removed without notice from the store. Express VPN also posted a copy of the message it said it had received from Apple, noting that its app was removed because it included “content that is illegal in China.”

“We’re disappointed in this development, as it represents the most drastic measure the Chinese government has taken to block the use of VPNs to date,” said ExpressVPN, “and we are troubled to see Apple aiding China’s censorship efforts. ExpressVPN strongly condemns these measures, which threaten free speech and civil liberties.”

In a statement on Sunday, an Apple spokeswoman confirmed it was in the process of removing apps from its China store that did not comply with Chinese law. 

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