VPNs route and encrypt internet traffic to servers outside of the country, making them popular with users in China who have limited access to online content because of government restrictions. VPNs allow access to sites like Facebook and Twitter, which are otherwise blocked by China’s “Great Firewall”.
Some users of the GreenVPN iPhone app reported that the service failed to load over the weekend. Apps for GreenVPN and SuperVPN are still listed in the App Store, but users reportedly had trouble downloading them or turning them on. Bloomberg was unable to contact SuperVPN’s offices, while Apple didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
It’s unknown whether the timing of the VPN shutdown is related to the politically sensitive 20th anniversary of the handover of Hong Kong from Great Britain to China. In January, China’s Ministry of Industry and Information announced new priorities for controlling online content which included restrictions on VPNs.
Last year, Apple faced its own issues with Chinese state regulators regarding a controversial independent movie which led to the shut down of iTunes and iBooks in the country.
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