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By Eric Lieberman
China’s government has reportedly directed telecommunications companies to block their users from accessing a secure internet network.
The country’s authorities are specifically mandating that state-run wireless carriers — like China Telecom, China Unicom and China Mobile — forbid people from using virtual private networks (VPNs). China is giving the quasi-private companies until Feb. 1, 2018 to comply with its orders, according to Bloomberg.
The technological capability gives users the ability to navigate the web anonymously through an encrypted, secure connection. VPNs thus empower Chinese citizens with the ability to circumvent the country’s firewall (also known as the Great Firewall of China), which technically prohibits people from accessing many online services and sites that are available on the global internet. Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, for example, are not accessible due to the firewall, so many Chinese citizens use Sina Weibo, a similar platform that is based in China and adheres to government’s calls for targeted censorship.
China’s propensity towards censorship manifests itself quite often, in fact, including in late June when the popular Netflix original “BoJack Horseman” was blocked just days after debuting in the country. (RELATED: China Battles For Internet Hegemony After America Gives Up Control)
The ban, which is not yet effective, will also likely have an effect on multinational businesses. Companies operating in Chinese territory will still be able to use networks connected to the international web, but will have to formally register their utilization of such utilities, according to Bloomberg.
“In the past, any effort to cut off internal corporate VPNs has been enough to make a company think about closing or reducing operations in China. It’s that big a deal,” Jake Parker, vice president of the U.S.-China Business Council, told Bloomberg.
“VPNs are incredibly important for companies trying to access global services outside of China,” he said, adding that the order also seems to affect individuals across the country.