China cracks down on VPN sellers on Alibaba, other e-tailers

The Chinese government is warning the country’s top websites against selling virtual private networks, which it has outlawed.

Alfred Ng
Alfred Ng Senior Reporter / CNET News
Alfred Ng was a senior reporter for CNET News. He was raised in Brooklyn and previously worked on the New York Daily News's social media and breaking news teams.

Alibaba's Taobao is the largest online retailer in China.

Hong Wu, Getty Images

The Chinese government has issued a warning to websites selling virtual private networks.

The Cyberspace Administration of China on Thursday demanded that five websites remove vendors that sell VPNs, which the country outlawed in July. Officials in China aim to stop people from using VPNs to get around its internet filter dubbed the Great Firewall, which blocks access to websites like Twitter and Facebook.

VPNs also help people keep their internet traffic private from the government or anybody who is trying to spy on them.

One of the websites warned was Alibaba's Taobao, China's largest online retailer, according to Reuters

The government issued an order to "immediately carry out a comprehensive clean-up of harmful information, close corresponding illegal accounts" and "submit a rectification report," Reuters reported.

The country has been cracking down on VPNs, including ordering Apple to remove all VPN apps from its China store and investigating social media sites like WeChat and Weibo. China passed a law that will require tech companies to remove VPNs by early 2018.

Alibaba didn't respond to requests for comment. It's unclear when Alibaba will have to remove the VPN vendors.