Chinese authorities have issued a warning to five of the country's well-known e-commerce platforms, over the sale of illegal virtual private networks (VPNs); that allows users to evade state censorship controls. Online retailers named in the notice include Alibaba, social shopping network Mogujie, and entertainment platforms Xiami and Peiyinxiu.
This step is the latest in a chain of measures the Chinese authorities have taken in order to maintain more control over online content. A little over a month ago, China blocked VPN access for individuals, instructing companies to register with the government. Later on, complying with this mandate, Apple removed all major VPN apps from the Chinese App Store.
The Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), the country's top cyber regulator, has instructed the aforementioned websites to carry out immediate "self-examination and correction", saying that:
The CAC has ordered these five sites to immediately carry out a comprehensive clean-up of harmful information, close corresponding illegal accounts, and submit a rectification report by a deadline.
The CAC put several social media platforms under investigation a few days ago for failing to adhere to cyber laws.
Interestingly, Russian President Vladimir Putin also signed a bill banning the use of proxies and virtual private networks mere weeks ago. Only a handful of countries have engaged in blocking VPNs until now, but it is unclear if more will follow suit.