Amazon Follows Apple in Complying with China's Internet Crackdown

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Just a few days after Apple eliminated VPNs from the App Store in China, Amazon too has decided to comply with the country’s new internet censorship law, working via its partner in the region.

A Chinese company called Beijing Sinnet Technology that operates Amazon Web Services there has emailed its local customers a letter advising them to cease any and all use of VPNs and other anonymization and encryption technologies that could allow them to get past the “Great Firewall” and connect to global content.

"If users don't comply with the guidance, the offered services and their websites can be shut down," said one Sinnet customer service rep, speaking to the New York Times. "We the operators also check routinely if any of our users use these softwares [sic] or store illegal content."

China recently passed a new cybersecurity law that requires that companies, including foreign cloud providers, store their data within China, imposes security checks on companies in sectors like finance and communications, requires citizens to use their real names for messaging services and prohibits the use of VPNs and networks like the Tor Project, which provides privacy for users and covers their internet tracks, essentially making it impossible for the government to trace them. Recent guidance also said that Communist Party members can be punished for viewing “illegal sites” and that citizens must register all social media accounts, be they foreign or local.

China’s stated reasoning is to better fight cybercrime and terrorism—reason that Russia recently gave for a similar move to limit privacy on the ‘net.

Apple over the weekend removed up to 60 VPN apps from the App Store in order to comply with the laws, and said that it would build a data center in China to house user information.

The compliance by US tech giants comes ahead of the 19th Communist Party National Congress, during which time there is heightened sensitivity in government about dissenting online voices.

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