A ban on the use of unlicensed software, such as virtual private networks (VPNs), to circumvent internet controls will officially come into effect on Saturday, March 31, as the Chinese government further tightens its Great Firewall. From March 31, companies and individuals will only be allowed to use government-approved VPNs.
Multinational and foreign-owned firms that have operations in China will be able to lease access to the international web by applying for a VPN line with the government, in return for providing usage records. According to the vice president of the US-China Business Council, VPNs have become so crucial for multinational firms operating in China that previous efforts to end internal corporate VPNs have caused companies to consider reducing or ending operations in China.
VPNs are used by individuals and businesses to view websites normally inaccessible due to China’s Great Firewall, an information blockage system that prevents access to numerous sites, including Twitter and Facebook.
In early July 2017, the Chinese government ordered state-run telecommunications firms, including China Mobile, China Unicom, and China Telecom, to prevent individuals from accessing VPNs by February 1, 2018, and in January 2018 the Ministry of Industry and Information announced it would crackdown on unauthorized VPNs. A popular VPN provider, GreenVPN, ended its service on July 1 due to an order from regulatory authorities.
Individuals are advised to monitor the situation and follow any government directives regarding the use of VPNs.
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