China’s ever rising flood of internet censorship has sunk another tool for online communication. Skype, the online phone and messaging service, has gone the way of Google after the service vanished from local app stores last month.
'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 said Tuesday in an emailed statement responding to questions about Skype’s disappearance from the app store. “These apps remain available in all other markets where they do business.'
The statement does not explain however Skype’s absence from third party Android app stores such as Huawei and Xiaomi, but its a safe guess to say it has something to do with the fact that Skype does not make private user information readily available to the Chinese government, which requires that the state be allowed access to all private user data within its borders.
Existing users have also reportedly faced increasing disruption to the service over the past month – a tell-tale symptom that a non-China sanctioned app is on its way out (remember WhatsApp?
Skype’s disappearance has sparked a flurry of complaints across the little social media that is still available on the Mainland. Bloggers on Sina Weibo called the move a 'return to the Qing Dynasty,' citing the difficulties that many Chinese will face with online interactions beyond national boundaries. 'So now I even have to use VPN just to interview with the school I applied for? Good luck anyone who is hoping to study overseas this year,' fumed one user.
China’s Communist Party’s obsessive censorship of online interaction has meant that Skype is only the most recent in a long line of foreign-run software that has been buried under the Great Firewall of China. Other victims include Gmail, Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, Line, and Pinterest – because nothing spells political dissent like photos of Instagramable
Social media in China is now all but limited to one platform – WeChat – and following recent revelations about Beijing’s planned manipulation of this service
, users may want to think twice before they get overly expressive online. As one Weibo user writes, 'Everyone's words are under [Government] control now!'