Obeying China cybersecurity law, Apple removes Skype from app store

Apple

In the latest clampdowns of China suppression on online platforms, Apple has removed several apps including Skype, Microsoft’s internet phone call, and messaging service, from its app store in China after the country’s government pointed to violations of local laws.

In recent years, Beijing has pursued a series of laws and regulations that have raised concerns from foreign companies trying to expand their user base across the country.

Skype is the latest addition to the list of internet platforms, including Alphabet’s Google, Facebook, and Twitter, which has become inaccessible to Chinese users.

Cyber authorities have completely banned Facebook Inc’s encrypted messenger service WhatsApp, which was a strong message to CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who has been trying his best to re-enter the country.

“We have been notified by the Ministry of Public Security that a number of voice over internet protocol apps do not comply with local law, therefore these apps have been removed from the App Store in China,” an Apple spokeswoman told Reuters. “These apps remain available in all other markets where they do business.”

Unlike similar services that are blocked, including Facebook, Google and Twitter Inc, Skype’s services are still available for those who already have the app installed.

China has increased scrutiny of internet applications this year, ordering firms to remove hundreds of apps that allow users to communicate confidentially or get around China’s so-called Great Firewall system of censorship and use overseas social media.

The actions are linked to real name authentication laws brought in earlier this year, requiring all network providers to verify the real names of users with state-issued IDs or passports, which must be accessible to authorities for surveillance purposes.

Some foreign firms, including Amazon Inc and Apple have this year handed of parts of their business to local affiliates.

Earlier this month, Beijing Sinnet Technology which runs Amazon’s cloud computing services in China has agreed to purchase the Jeff Bezos founded company’s Chinese web services business for up to 2 billion yuan ($301 million), ending the U.S. firms’s cloud-computing business in the country.

In China, these foreign cloud computing companies are not allowed to sell their services directly in China. Instead, they must partner with local Chinese companies and speak the country’s strict regulatory language to serve as their cloud vendors in the country.

Foreign tech lobbies and businesses operating in China have said internet rules are too strict and could hit their local operations. Chinese netizens took to Weibo to discuss Skype’s ban and also criticised goverment for being overly restrictive, despite the existence of local alternatives.

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