China targets Alibaba's
Taobao, other e-commerce sites, in VPN crackdown
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[August 17, 2017]
By Cate Cadell
BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese authorities
have issued a warning to the country's top e-commerce platforms,
including Alibaba Holding Group Ltd's Taobao.com, over the sale of
illegal virtual private networks that allow users to skirt state
Five websites have been asked to carry out immediate "self-examination
and correction" to remove vendors that sell illegal virtual private
networks (VPNs), according to a notice posted by the Zhejiang provincial
branch of the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), China's top
Some of them were ordered to halt new user registrations, suspend
services and punish accountable staff.
"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 regulator said on Thursday.
This is the latest in a series of measures taken by China to secure the
internet and maintain strict control over content. Surveillance is being
further tightened ahead of the 19th National Congress of the Communist
Party later this year, when global attention will be on news from the
world's No.2 economy.
Recently, China said it was investigating its top social media sites,
including WeChat and Weibo, for failing to comply with cyber laws. It
has already taken down popular celebrity gossip social media accounts
and extended restrictions on what news can be produced and distributed
by online platforms.
This is in addition to its campaign to remove VPN apps.
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A computer network cable is seen above a Chinese flag in this July
12, 2017 illustration photo. REUTERS/Thomas White/Illustration/File
Regulators have clamped down on dozens of local VPNs, and ordered Apple Inc and
other app stores to remove foreign VPN apps that allow users to access foreign
websites censored by the government.
China has also passed laws, which will come into effect from early 2018, that
require telecommunications providers and tech firms to play a greater role in
On Chinese online marketplaces, including the country's largest e-commerce site
Taobao, vendors sell a range of tools to set up personalized VPNs that are
harder to track and block than some other services.
"Taobao forbids the listing or sale of any products that are forbidden by
applicable law. We screen and remove product listings from third-party sellers
which violate our marketplace rules," an Alibaba spokeswoman said, referring to
the products mentioned in the regulator's notice.
Other sites named in the notice include women-focused social shopping network
Mogujie and entertainment platforms Xiami and Peiyinxiu. The notice did not
specify the date of the deadline by which the sites have to complete the
(Reporting by Cate Cadell; Editing by Himani Sarkar)
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