Skype Gets Blocked By The Great Firewall Of China

The latest online service to find itself banned in China is Skype, the service which allows users to make voice and video calls over the internet:

In the latest move dashing Western internet company hopes of breaking into China, it was announced that all internet phone calls were to be banned apart from those made over two state-owned networks, China Unicom and China Telecom.

“[This] is expected to make services like Skype unavailable in the country,” reported the People’s Daily, the official mouthpiece of the Communist party.

Websites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are already blocked in China and Google closed down its Chinese servers last year after heavy government pressure.

Yesterday, Wang Chen, the deputy head of the Chinese Propaganda department, said: “By November … 350 million pieces of harmful information, including text, pictures and videos, had been deleted [from the Chinese internet].”

Some Chinese users of Twitter, the micro-blogging website, claimed they could already no longer download Skype, but the service appeared to be working normally in Shanghai.

In a statement, Skype said: “Users in China currently can access Skype via Tom Online, our partner.” It declined to comment on “speculation” that the service would be blocked in the near future.

China is now the world’s largest market for internet phone calls, which are far cheaper than landline calls and are cutting into the market of China’s state telecommunications giants.

Of course, this is about more than just protecting China’s state owned phone companies from competition. Services like Skype allow people to communicate outside of the ability of governments to control or monitor. and China’s internet policy over the past several years has been all about keeping information out. So far, it seems to be working

FILED UNDER: Asia, Economics and Business, Quick Takes, Science & Technology, World Politics,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Matthew Stinson says:

    No, this is primarily about China protecting its telecom duopoly from competition.

    The Chinese version of Skype has long had a Chinese govt-mandated backdoor, and its Chinese competitors (Tencent et al) have taken steps beyond mere backdoors towards active censorship, so the censorship/controlling information/spying-on-dissidents angle doesn’t hold up here.

    Now, most of the commentators will look at VOIP in China in terms of PC-to-PC or PC-to-phone or phone-to-PC calls, but the development that has China’s telecoms afraid, very afraid, is the recent proliferation of WiFi-enabled smartphones* which can receive Skype calls through a Skype client.

    Skype treats calls to the mobile client like it does calls to a PC client, which means that they’re free and an attractive alternative to a standard local phone call at home, in the office, at a coffee house, or possibly in one of China’s public WiFi areas. So it should come as no surprise that people in China are now reporting Skype apps disappearing from the Apple China App Store. Odds are, the powers-that-be will try to make Nokia’s Skype clients unavailable in China as well.

    China’s telecoms aren’t the first telecom companies to feel threatened by Skype VOIP on handsets, mind you. European and American service providers have tried to monkeywrench mobile Skype before, but they don’t have the full force of government behind them. And, shock headlines aside, Skype hasn’t been blocked or banned yet. Both the website and the client are working here in north China as of this writing.

    * China banned the sale of WiFi-enabled smartphones until recently, demanding that phone manufacturers use its (backdoor-friendly) WAPI protocol instead. WiFi phones have been common in the grey market for years, however.

  2. Michael says:

    The Chinese version of Skype has long had a Chinese govt-mandated backdoor

    Last I heard even the regular version of Skype hasn’t been real open about what kind of encryption it uses, so you never know.

  3. Hughesey says:

    You can see if any given website is accessible in mainland China here http://viewdns.info/chinesefirewall/