Skype removed from Apple & Android app stores in China

Greater controls are expected.

By Kayla Wong | November 23, 2017

Yet another popular communications app has disappeared from app stores in China in the latest sign of tightening internet controls in the country.

Apple has removed several apps including Skype, Microsoft Corp’s internet phone call and messaging service, from its app store in China after the Chinese government says they violate local laws.

The move was confirmed by the firm in a statement to Reuters, after nearly a month of reports that the service had ‘vanished’ for users in China.

An Apple representative stated that the company is “working to reinstate the program as soon as possible”.

In addition, Skype was also removed from a number of websites for Android app downloads as well, including those run by Chinese tech giants like Huawei and Xiaomi.

Checks by Reuters have shown that Skype was not available in app stores in China overseen by Apple, Tencent and Qihoo 360 Technology. Alphabet’s Google Play app store is not available in China.

Existing Skype users can still use app

Nevertheless, users who already have Skype installed on their phones can continue to access it as Skype still functions in China, unlike similar services that are blocked, such as Facebook, Google and Twitter.

However, it is unclear how long this will remain the case.

Complaints from Chinese users

According to a report by the New York Times (NYT), the removal led to complaints from Chinese users who were no longer able to pay for Skype’s services through Apple. The disruption had apparently started in late October.

Despite the existence of local alternatives, many Chinese netizens criticised the move for being overly restrictive.

Screenshot via Weibo.

Translation: Skype is no longer available on the app store. I don’t dare to translate this, so everyone, just read the original English statement. The better this account does, the more cowardly I become. How tragic, sigh.

Screenshot via Weibo.

Translation: China’s app store is no longer the same. I suggest you register for the American or Japanese version.

Screenshot via Weibo.

Translation: I have a feeling that it wouldn’t be long before it’s Telegram’s turn…

Screenshot via Weibo.

Translation: That’s why all the foreign investments are going to India. They don’t waste time and avoid getting entangled with a “great power’s national pride”.

China’s strict Internet regulation

The removal of Skype from the app stores is the most recent example of an ongoing effort by China’s government to control and monitor the flow of information online.

Such actions are said by Chinese authorities to protect personal privacy and prevent online terrorist activity, and are linked to real name authentication laws that started earlier this year which require all network providers to verify the real names of users with state-issued IDs or passports.

Apple has previously removed its iBooks and iTunes Movie Services in China, along with some other VPN service apps from the local Apple app store that allow users to get around China’s “Great Firewall” system of Internet censorship.

China’s latest internet crackdown targets content on Tencent, Weibo and Baidu

Top image via Weibo and Getty Images.

About Kayla Wong

Kayla's dog runs her life.

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