Apple has removed virtual private network (VPN) apps, software which allowed users in China access to an unfiltered internet, from its App Store. VPNs allowed users to circumvent the “Great Firewall,” China’s intricate system of internet filters that is aimed at restricting access to overseas websites.
Apple’s VPN services once helped internet users overcome China’s censorship system. Now, many on social media are outraged at the news of Apple removing all major VPN apps. Now, Apple is being accused of bowing to pressure from Beijing to comply with the country’s stringent cyberspace laws.
The move by the U.S. tech giant was first noted by ExpressVPN, a provider based outside of China. It was reported in a blog post that “all major VPN apps” including its own had been purged from Apple’s China-based store, according to Tech Crunch.
The Chinese government’s crackdown on the internet is said to be the reason why the company’s app was removed. ExpressVPN shared a note from Apple with their followers on Twitter because “it includes content that is illegal in China.”
The App Store purge is of major importance because VPNs are the only way that a China-based individual can bypass state censorship controls to access the internet without restrictions. The Chinese government effectively made the use of VPNs illegal after new rules were issued in January.
Those who wanted to use VPN’s were required to receive government approval. This regulation appears to be the reason Apple was forced to remove providers like ExpressVPN and many others like it.
Two popular VPN services ceased in China and left their users (which included professionals) without access to the global internet for work and with no means for an alternative.
Apple perhaps believes it is best for its business to cooperate with requests from Beijing. However, the current Apple App Store purge is now one of the biggest setbacks for the free internet in China’s history.
VPN apps continue to be available for users across the world outside of China, the company said. In order to bypass these restrictions, a user must create an App Store account in a different country — this process is unknown to many users, so the missing Chinese app will be much needed and missed.
Another provider, Star VPN, tweeted that its app had also been removed from the China-based Apple App Store.
ExpressVPN wrote on its blog that they are disappointed with the new measures the Chinese government has taken to block the use of VPN’s.
“We are troubled to see Apple aiding China’s censorship efforts… ExpressVPN strongly condemns these measures, which threaten free speech and civil liberties.”
Apple has yet to make a statement or reply to comment regarding their VPN app removal.
[Featured Image by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images]