April 12, 2024

China's and Russia's VPN crackdown - The Listening Post (Lead)

Published June 11, 2023, 7:20 a.m. by Jerald Waisoki

russia and china have both recently taken action against the use of VPNs, virtual private networks. VPNs enable internet users in one country to surf the web as if they are in another.

Up until now, china has taken a selective approach to prohibiting vpn use - usually choosing to look away when people tunnelled through the "great firewall" that Beijing has put in place to regulate access to the internet. Their new approach requires the support of companies like Apple, which has obeyed an order from Beijing to remove vpn apps from its Chinese App store.

russia has a more open internet than china, but it's just passed a new law banning VPNs and other proxy servers.

Beijing's approach is more subtle, but in both countries, the pattern is unmistakable: the powers that be are out to limit - and, in effect, decide - what you can or cannot see and do online.

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China has constructed the world's we're

going to dig a little deeper now into a

story that we just touched on last week

legislation in both China and Russia

that has made masking who you are online

where you are in order to have better

access to news and information much more

difficult those in search of websites

and services their governments don't

want them to find have had one reliable

tool to help them hide their digital

footprint VPNs Virtual Private Networks

up until now China has taken a selective

approach to prohibiting the use of VPNs

usually choosing to look away when

people tunneled their way through the

Great Firewall Beijing has put in place

to regulate access to the Internet

China's new approach to bar access to

VPNs requires the support of us-based

companies like Apple which has obeyed an

order from Beijing to remove VPN apps

from its Chinese App Store Russia has

had a more open internet than China's

but it's just passed a new law targeting

VPNs and other proxy servers the

justification offered by the Kremlin

that it's doing this to stop the

promotion of extremist content online

hasn't fooled anybody in both countries

the pattern is unmistakable the powers

that be are out to limit and in effect

decide what you can or cannot see and do

online our starting point this week is



to make it easy to explain what a VPN is

it's really just a secure tunnel to the

internet so you can sit in China and you

can use a VPN based in Sweden and you

will see everything that the Swedish

Internet sees because it will look as if

you are coming from sweet and now if

that Chanos cut off does it mean that

people inside China will get cut off

from information around the world then

it is getting elevated to warfare this

cat-and-mouse game is getting

increasingly sophisticated

I'm afraid the cat is getting the upper

hand make that cat's Russia and China

have chosen different ways to police and

restrict the use of VPNs the Russians a

flat-out ban them and all proxy servers

through a new law that takes effect in

November first China changed its law

this past January requiring developers

to get government licenses if they want

their VPN apps to remain available on

the Chinese market

Beijing's approach is more subtle than

the Kremlin's partly because it already

has tools at its disposal that Russia

does not the way that Russia regulates

the internet is in some ways very

different from the way that China

regulates the Internet

China's regulations are backed by a very

complicated Great Firewall of China and

so they take a lot of very advanced

technical measures to block things in

transit Russia on the other hand has

only extremely primitive Internet

censorship technology Russia's approach

is different not necessarily because

Russia doesn't want to follow this kind

of censorship at the level of the

infrastructure but because it can't the

kind of infrastructure and Mackenna

that have been built up in China over 20

years it's a long-standing project

because of course this is an arms race

Apple became a key component in this

story when it announced on August 1st

that it was pulling the plug on the VPN

apps it offers its customers in China

Apple was an easy target for Beijing

because the company does not allow for

open source app development users who

want apps for their Apple products must

shop for them at the company's App Store

unlike Android phones which allow their

users to acquire apps from anywhere

Apple's closed shop offers the company

more control but it also makes Apple

easier for authoritarian governments to

control it's one-stop shopping for both

private users and state censors because

there is only one Apple Store whereas

there are over 400 Android stores in in

China and so getting every single one of

them to take down every single VPN

application is a much much harder task

it is extremely easy to carry out

censorship in the app store simply by

leaning on one company Apple has made it

extremely simple for them to do so Apple

is not the first Internet company that

give in to China's demands and controls

it follow a list of many companies China

is a big market the report just came out

a couple days ago that Chinese internet

uses now numbered more than 700 million

that is more than the total population

of Europe so can you give up their

market Apple's market share in China is

very important to them and I would

caution Apple that in China you know

they're trying to build their own

internet services and their own

smartphones so they may have mortgaged

here today but Apple may be pushed out

and wish they would have fought for that

principle when they look back

Apple is acutely aware of the price

Western tech companies pay for riling

Beijing Twitter and Facebook were both

legal in China until 2009 before butting

heads with the authorities over

censorship and getting banned Twitter

has effectively been replaced by sino

Weibo a microblogging service that

cooperates with censors still a source

Act Twitter reportedly told a tech site

last year that despite the ban it still

had 10 million users in China accessing

Twitter via VPNs those users could well

become casualties of the new VPN policy

and they won't be the only ones I

actually worry about other avenues which

are getting stifled by banning or

blocking or VPNs so academics have been

complaining saying look I'm not a

terrorist I'm not even political I'm not

a dissident I'm not doing anything

that's wrong I'm not trying to access

content that's troubling I just want to

look at the latest research in my field

I think the other thing that is really

critical is what about business in the

globalized world of business needs the

Internet they need communication China

has come a long way now is the second

largest economy in the world

everybody needs access to information

this is not even about politics but if

you let politics from everything it

could be self-defeating

blocking VPNs 100% is an economic

problem for them and there's a struggle

going on in China saying hey you know we

want to control the political

conversation but if we do that we're

gonna lose economically how they're

going to solve that potentially is

they're gonna have approved VPNs that

only the government controls so it's

about control I think in China versus

outright blocking

technology travels fast those out to

stop it are seldom far behind and

watching this game of cat and mouse in

China are plenty of other governments

copycats in waiting prepare for some of

them to do the same

there are many countries all over the

world including Russia and Iran that

look at China's heavily censored

Internet as as a model for how they

would like to go forward Internet

censorship is also extremely common in

Turkey where it is extremely political

there's a lot of censorship of

journalists of political content and as

a result the use of VPNs in in Turkey is

routine it does a rout danger of the

tribunal in control and offense being

exported and being learned by other

countries think about it

China has money he has government

support it has a market they can sell

the technology it will be shared with

governments around the world we should

not take our internet freedom for

granted in China in Hong Kong United

States and around the world



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