Chinese Internet users may soon find it a lot harder to get around the notorious "Great Firewall" as the government has announced a crackdown on virtual private networks, or VPNs.
According to an announcement from China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, VPN service providers will now have to obtain government approval. Using a non-approved VPN will no longer be allowed. The move is part of a 14-month campaign to "clean up" the service providers, according to the government.
VPNs, which cost about $10 per month, have been used in China by some as a way to disguise Internet traffic to allow access to restricted websites like Facebook and Twitter, among others. The Great Firewall also filters access to certain topics the Chinese government finds objectionable, such as Tibet and the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, which ended in violence.
Criticism of the government is also filtered.
China began to police the internet in the mid-1990's and is constantly upgrading and changing how it censors certain content.
The move to crack down on VPN use is just the latest attempt by the government to strengthen its hold on the internet in China.
Last November, the government enacted a new law requiring internet service providers to collect personal information, CNN reported, adding that in 2015, Chinese state media called the blocking of VPN's a “healthy development.”