By Tenzin Dharpo
DHARAMSHALA, Nov. 22: The online messaging and video-calling app Skype is the latest foreign run application to be banned in China. Users in China claim that the App which has been taken down from both Apple app store and Android platforms, was unavailable for weeks.
Apple, which is known to be overly compliant to Chinese government in a statement to New York Times responded on the removal of the app for its online stores saying “We have been notified by the Ministry of Public Security that a number of VoIP (voice over internet protocol) apps do not comply with local law, therefore these apps have been removed from the App Store in China.”
In September, another micro messaging app Whatsapp owned by Facebook was removed by the Chinese government, with many saying that China’s heavy handed censorship drives have claimed another victim.
Observers say that Chinese government is targeting foreign run apps and online platforms that are encrypted and are difficult for them to monitor. Skype, which is owned by Microsoft, continued to operate in China. Its spokesman responded on the particular front saying the app has been temporarily removed from Apple store and that they are working to restore it there but did not specify why the app is not available on Android stores.
Chinese government’s strengthened drive to enable censorship at a personal level is further boosted by its strict and compromising conditions, which companies such as Apple are compliant of, as long as their quarterly reports show upsurge in revenue.
In August, tech giant Apple removed many Virtual Private Network (VPN) Apps from its Chinese App store. The VPN apps, which bypass Chinese firewalls, are the only tools for dissidents and users looking for an unfettered access to the online world.
“With the removal of around 60 VPN apps from Apple Store China, Apple has essentially become the new Great Firewall of China. Apple app store is structured in such a way that it is almost impossible for the common man to install an app if it is removed from the Local App Store. So in essence, Apple has denied access to Tibetans and Chinese from the free and open internet,” Digital Security Programs Director at Tibet Action Institute, Lobsang Gyatso Sither told Phayul earlier.