Amazon Cloud Customers Are Told: Don't Bypass China's internet Gates

By Liza Lin in Shanghai and Jay Greene in Seattle Features Dow Jones Newswires

Amazon.com Inc.'s cloud-computing customers in China are being told to stop using software to bypass China's internet gates, part of a government clampdown.

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Amazon Web Services' Chinese partner, Beijing Sinnet Technology Co. Ltd., sent out emails to its users asking them to delete tools enabling them to circumvent the country's vast system of internet filters. Some of the tools that clients use include virtual private networks, or VPNs.

"Sinnet is responsible for ensuring that its customers in China comply with local laws and their notice was intended to remind customers of their obligations," an Amazon spokeswoman said via email.

Sinnet cited requests from China's public security ministry and Ministry of Industry and Information Technology in making the demands. A person familiar with the matter said there is no change in the way Amazon's services work in China.

Customers of Amazon, along with those of Apple Inc., are facing pressure in China to comply with the Chinese government's desire to further tighten the screws on its already heavily policed internet.

On Saturday, Apple removed software from its app store in China that allowed users to circumvent the country's web filters. The Cupertino, Calif., technology company cited new rules that require providers of VPNs, which are often used to get around Chinese internet firewalls, to obtain licenses from regulators.

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Complaints of disruptions affecting users of overseas VPNs in China have multiplied recently. Facebook Inc.'s encrypted WhatsApp messaging service has also been affected, with users finding it difficult or extremely slow to send messages.

VPNs, employed by a small minority of Chinese internet users, allow users to circumvent the country's tight internet controls. They are vital to hundreds of businesses, media organizations, research institutions and other groups that rely on the ability to connect with the wider internet. They are also used by individuals who want to jump over China's Great Firewall to see blocked content such as Facebook, YouTube and certain foreign news sites.

Chinese authorities have clamped down on everything from internet browsing to live-streaming websites and social media in the run-up to an important Communist Party conclave in the fall, at which most of the country's top leaders are set to be replaced.

VPN providers say the breadth and intensity of the crackdown makes them fear it could last beyond a leadership handover.

"Although China has implemented blocks and one-off censorship events in the past, it feels different this time, due to the events occurring and their rapid succession," said Sunday Yokubaitis, president of Golden Frog GmbH, provider of VyprVPN.

--Josh Chin in Beijing contributed to this article.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

August 01, 2017 18:38 ET (22:38 GMT)