China Warns Tech Giants Not To Help Citizens Around Its ‘Great Firewall’

Eric Lieberman | Tech and Law Reporter

The Chinese government reportedly warned several domestic tech giants Thursday not to empower users with the ability to sidestep the country’s virtual block on content it deems illegal.

Known as the “Great Firewall of China,” the technical infrastructure obstructs users within the country who are trying to access parts of the internet that are strictly forbidden.

The Cyberspace Administration of China issued the stern caution to five firms, reports Bloomberg, including Alibaba, an e-commerce company. The regulatory agency, which is tasked with the oversight of internet, says the company’s platform Taobao (which is comparable to Amazon’s) is allowing the illicit distribution of “controlled substances” as well as virtual private network (VPN) tools. China ordered telecom companies in July to block their users from accessing VPNs, which are used to gain entry into prohibited and usually-blocked sites, like ones operated and created by people in other countries.

“Taobao forbids the listing or sale of any products that are forbidden by applicable law,” Alibaba said in an emailed statement, according to Bloomberg. “We screen and remove product listings from third-party sellers which violate our marketplace rules.” (RELATED: While Trashing Trump, Apple Is Selling Its Soul To Do Business In China)

While the country has been accused of unjust internet governance, like censorship, for years, the most recent mandate from China is yet another example of the government’s growing crackdown on internet freedom. The Cyberspace Administration launched investigations into several companies earlier in August, including social media platforms, such as WeChat, Weibo, and Tieba, after people reported several violations of Chinese law.

But China’s crackdown may not be due to the reasons it purports. (RELATED: Netflix Show Lasted Three Days In China Before It Got Censored)

The country successfully purged several people’s WeChat accounts in 2014 after it seemed to notice people used the channel to express dissent, specifically over government policies and decision. Many people then moved to Weibo to continue sharing their thoughts, and communicate their displeasure over being banned.

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