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Eileen Gu's VPN comment reportedly censored on Chinese social media

The American-born Olympic skier reportedly recommended people use VPNs in China, where they're illegal.

Laura Hautala
Laura Hautala
Laura Hautala Former Senior Writer
Laura wrote about e-commerce and Amazon, and she occasionally covered cool science topics. Previously, she broke down cybersecurity and privacy issues for CNET readers. Laura is based in Tacoma, Washington, and was into sourdough before the pandemic.
Expertise E-commerce, Amazon, earned wage access, online marketplaces, direct to consumer, unions, labor and employment, supply chain, cybersecurity, privacy, stalkerware, hacking. Credentials
  • 2022 Eddie Award for a single article in consumer technology
Laura Hautala
2 min read
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A description of how to bypass a firewall to access Instagram has reportedly been removed from an image posted to Chinese social media.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Olympic skier Eileen Gu made it sound like using Instagram is easy in China when she replied to a commenter on the social media service, according to a screenshot noted by Protocol on Thursday. Now her description of how to bypass China's firewall to use Instagram has reportedly been censored. 

The exchange started when a commenter asked Gu, who won a gold medal in big air freestyle skiing, how she could use the Instagram photo-sharing service, which is blocked in China. 

"Anyone can download a VPN its literally free on the App store," Gu replied, according to the screenshot. CNET couldn't verify the comment.

China's government has banned the use of VPNs, or virtual private networks, for individuals. The services hide internet traffic from internet service providers, often letting users bypass firewalls. According to Protocol, Gu's remarks about the VPN were removed from a screenshot shared on Weibo, a popular Chinese social media service.

Gu didn't immediately respond to a request for comment sent on Instagram. Neither Instagram nor Weibo responded to requests for comment. 

In addition to blocking services such as Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, the Chinese government requires cooperation from domestic tech companies in keeping specific content from appearing in social media feeds. As a result, companies filter out images and videos, altering what regular people see. Research conducted in 2019 of WeChat, another social media site in China, revealed that photos of the infamous "Tank Man" incident in Tiananmen Square and posts about the arrest of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou were blocked.

According to Protocol, people expressed outrage on Weibo in response to Gu's suggestion to use a VPN. One person was quoted as saying, "Literally, I'm not 'anyone.' Literally, it's illegal for me to use a VPN. Literally, it's not fxxking free at all."