China's new 'cleanup' campaign shores up Great Firewall

Now all VPN services must be authorized by the government to operate in China.

Dong Ngo SF Labs Manager, Editor / Reviews
CNET editor Dong Ngo has been involved with technology since 2000, starting with testing gadgets and writing code for CNET Labs' benchmarks. He now manages CNET San Francisco Labs, reviews 3D printers, networking/storage devices, and also writes about other topics from online security to new gadgets and how technology impacts the life of people around the world.
Dong Ngo

China on Monday reinforced its Great Firewall by declaring virtual private networks, or VPNs, illegal unless they are authorized by the government.

In China, popular sites like Facebook, Twitter, Wikipedia or YouTube are blocked by the country's Great Firewall. Search terms deemed sensitive by the government are also censored.

To have normal access the web, Chinese users have resorted VPNs, which bypass the censorship firewall. But now these services are the target of a new 14-month "cleanup" campaign that cracks down on "unauthorized internet connections."

As reported Monday by the South China Morning Post, a notice from the country's Ministry of Information and Technology states that all VPN services must be authorized by the country's telecom regulators. This means, effective immediately, most VPN providers in China are now illegal.

Apart from VPNs, the campaign also requires all internet service providers, content distribution networks and data centers operated in the country to be licensed by the government.

This is not the first time Beijing launched such campaign. The last "cleanup" effort reportedly took place in March 2016, during the National People's Congress meeting in Beijing, when Chinese web users reported that their paid VPN services didn't work for weeks.

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