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China Outlaws Skype

In its never-ending struggle to completely control what its citizens can and can’t see on the internet, China has now banned all internet phone calls not made over one of two state-owned telecom networks.  According to The Telegraph, China is the world’s largest market for internet phone calls, so the loss of the market for all other internet phone calls is not trivial.  Does this really specifically connect to Skype, though?

Yeah, according to the state owned newspaper The People’s Daily:

[This] is expected to make services like Skype unavailable in the country.

Of course, Skype is already a little different behind the Great Firewall.  Chinese users can access Skype only through a service called Tom Online, which “has been widely criticised for monitoring messages on the network, especially those which mention “sensitive” subjects such as Falun Gong, the banned spiritual movement, and Tibet.”

The likeliest motivation for banning Skype and other cheap-as-free-internet-calling services that are not owned by the government is that it is trickier to monitor phone calls if you don’t actually own the service.

Of course, with the Internet, making the law is one thing, and enforcing it is another.

Experts said the rules would be difficult, if not impossible, to enforce, since Chinese internet users could simply download versions of Skype or other internet phone call programs from websites outside China.

“It is very unlikely that they will manage to shut Skype down,” said Professor Kan Kaili at Beijing University of Post and Telecommunications. “Skype is the market leader, but there is also MSN and Gmail Talk. The children of Chinese government officials, who are studying abroad, use these services to call home, so I do not think anyone is going to cut the lines. Even if they take a strict approach, such as getting local operators to block the broadband services of people who use Skype, people will still find a way around it,” he added.

Good luck with that China.  If outlawing it doesn’t work, you can always hack the servers of the business that won’t cooperate with you.

(via The Telegraph.)

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