After FB, Twitter, China bans Skype too

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Shanghai, Dec. 31: After blocking websites like Facebook, Twitter and Youtube, now China has banned the use of the popular internet telephony service, Skype, illegal. Google also closed down its Chinese servers in 2009.

The state-run People's Daily reported on Thursday, Dec 30 that all internet phone calls are to be banned apart from those made over two state-owned networks, China Unicom and China Telecom.

According to new regulations, phone calls from computers to land lines on Skype will be banned, but it may still be legal to make calls from computers to other computers.

On Wednesday, Dec 29, Wang Chen, the deputy head of the Chinese Propaganda department, said, "By Nov (2010) ... 350 million pieces of harmful information, including text, pictures and videos, had been deleted [from the Chinese internet]."

In a statement, Skype said, "Users in China currently can access Skype via Tom Online, our partner."

According to The Telegraph, China is the world's largest market for internet phone calls, which are far cheaper than landline calls and are cutting into the market of China's state telecommunications giants.

Skype has offered Chinese users a joint service with Hong Kong-based Tom since Sep 2007. The service 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 Chinese ministry of Industry and Information Technology, which issues licences to telecommunication companies, on Thursday declined to comment on when the regulations would take effect.

SkypeBJ, the company's Beijing partner, declined to comment on the ban.

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.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."

It also added, "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."

ANI

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