A recent regulation in China caused a popular VPN service provider to announce that it will be shutting down on the 1st of July, this year. The regulation is supposed to ban telecommunication companies and internet access providers from setting up or renting VPNs, to bypass local online restrictions without the proper official governmental approval.
Shutting Down VPNs and Other Websites
The top rated China-based VPN provider; GreenVPN, which was referred to by netizens in China as “the best VPN” has announced on its official website on Thursday that it had received a notice from the regulator to close down its operations starting from the 1st of July.
The statement read: “Under the higher authorities’ notice, we must regret to inform you that GreenVPN will stop its service on July 1, 2017. We apologize for any inconvenience caused… It’s your each and every thumb-up that encouraged us to persist until today; we are always grateful. After this, the Green team will transform and look forward to meeting you again.”
On that same day multiple websites, including Sina Weibo (China’s most popular social media outlet), AcFun (an online video site), and ifeng.com (a news website), were demanded by the Chinese authorities to shut down their independent multimedia content due to “failing to obtain a license”.
The State Administration of Radio, Film, and Television (China’s TV and film watchdog) posted on its website on June 22 that these websites have “broadcasted a lot of multimedia programs that either are not complying with national regulations or are promoting negative social commentaries.” And so the State Administration advised these websites to shut down these programs, “in order to create a clearer network space for the majority of netizens.”
Accordingly, and under pressure, Sina Weibo announced that users without a license are not permitted to upload audio-visual content. Due to this, the company’s stock prices in Nasdaq Stock Market dropped on June 22 by 4.83 percent.
On June 16th, and in a similar incident, VTRSpeed, another VPN provider, announced on its website that the IP addresses of the company are facing blocks. Several USA and Hong Kong IP addresses are not accessible anymore from China.
These incidents were expected as back in January, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) officially stated that it will move forward to regulate the entire Internet services sector by removing all illegal activities such business operations that are unlicensed out of their scope in the Internet Data Center, in addition to Internet Service Provider and Content Delivery Network service business. This process should be completed in March 2018.
In other words, according to the MIIT, all basic telecommunication companies and internet access providers are barred from setting up or renting special lines, including VPNs, without the proper approval. They won’t be allowed to proceed in bypassing local online restrictions.
This caused internet users in China to fear that this might affect other VPN service providers as well since most netizens in China rely greatly on VPNs or mirror websites to bypass the high level of online censorship in China. Other internet users seem to have become very numb and did not give any reaction or did not complain or comment about the issue.