Skype is now absent from several app stores in China, namely Apple’s, making it the latest victim of the nation’s harsh internet censorship efforts known as the Great Firewall.
The New York Times reports that the messaging and calling app was removed from the online stores almost a month ago.
“We have been notified by the Ministry of Public Security 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,” an Apple spokeswoman told the Times in an emailed statment. “These apps remain available in all other markets where they do business.”
The statement refers to a China cybersecurity law implemented in June, which has language that helps the government block messaging apps without outright banning the services.
Irritated Skype users in China took to internet forums to complain about being unable to pay for the service via Apple, according to the Times. Forum posts claim that the issues started late last month.
In July, Apple removed virtual private network (VPN) services from its China app store, around the same time that Facebook’s messaging platform WhatsApp was partially blocked in China. Two months earlier, the company removed iBooks and iTunes Movies from the nation’s app store. Messaging apps Telegram and Line, as well as Facebook and Gmail, have also been blocked in the country.
As the Times report notes, authoritarian internet restrictions are not new in China, but President Xi Jinping has only intensified the effort to control communication and social networking platforms.
A spokesperson for Microsoft, Skype’s parent company, confirmed to the Times that the app had been “temporarily removed” from Apple’s store, but did not provide comment on Skype’s removal from other third-party app stores for Android, Google’s mobile operating system. Many Google services are barred in China, so Android users rely on alternative venues instead of the Google Play Store.
Skype still works in China, but it might not be available for purchase on the Apple store until the company figures out how to provide the app in a way that does not break the new cybersecurity law.
Gizmodo has reached out to Apple and Microsoft for comment. We will update this story if and when they respond. [The New York Times]