Skype has mysteriously disappeared from a number of app stores in China recently, leading many to worry that the Microsoft-owned messaging and video call app will be the latest foreign-run communications tool to fall behind the Great Firewall.
Citing complaints made by angry Skype users in China, Paul Mozur of the New York Times reports that Skype has been unavailable for almost a month in most popular stores where Chinese users go to download Android apps. In addition, Skype has vanished from Apple’s app store in the country.
Responding to queries about the disappearance of Skype and other similar apps from its China app store, an Apple spokeswoman told the New York Times that the company had received a notification from the Ministry of Public Security stating that “a number of voice over internet protocol apps do not comply with local law.”
“Therefore these apps have been removed from the app store in China,” the spokeswoman continued. “These apps remain available in all other markets where they do business.”
Mozur speculates that Beijing likely called for Skype’s removal because it features encryption options which make monitoring messages more difficult for the government. Skype itself still functions in China, though there are worries that that won’t be the case for long.
For the past few months, China’s infamous Net Nanny has been screwing around with WhatsApp, often making the popular messaging app totally unusable in mainland China. Already, a number of different foreign-run social media apps and services are blocked in China, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Telegram, and Line. These bans have been WeChat’s gain.
Meanwhile, this continues a trend of Apple kowtowing to Chinese censors. Back in July, the Silicon Valley-based tech giant drew criticism for removing VPN apps from its China app store after being pressured to do so by Chinese authorities.
Last month, the CEOs of both Microsoft and Apple were in Beijing to hear Xi Jinping tell them about how China was “opening up.”