- China’s “Great Firewall” of internet censorship blocks content that the government deems sensitive, including reports of political unrest and references to Taiwan as an independent country.
- US tech companies including Facebook, Twitter, and others are banned from the country.
- But some tech companies made the controversial decision to comply with China’s strict standards in order to operate within its borders.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
The US and China are locked in an intensifying cold war, and the global tech industry is at the center of it.
The standoff affects everything from supply chains to the sites everyday consumers can use – the US recently banned companies like Huawei from doing business in the US, and on the flip side, many US tech companies are banned from operating in China under its strict “Great Firewall” of censorship.
Wikipedia, Twitter, and Facebook, are among the major websites that Chinese users can’t access. Other companies have controversially decided to make concessions to China in order to operate in the country, including Microsoft and Apple. US companies that comply with Chinese censorship policies often face criticism, which led Google to abandon plans to expand a search engine to the country.
Here are all the ways that tech companies have operated – or attempted to operate – in China under the Great Firewall.
Apple, Microsoft, Google, Airbnb, and Blizzard all did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment on their operations in China.
Apple removed listings from the App Store that don’t comply with Chinese laws.
In the last two days, Apple has also removed HKmap.live, which enabled protesters to track Hong Kong Police, from the App Store a few days after initially approving it. An Apple spokesman told Business Insider that the app was being used in ways that put Hong Kong residents and law enforcement in danger.
Additionally, Apple removed the news app Quartz, and the site’s investigations editor John Keefe suggested Quartz’s coverage of the Hong Kong protests could be a factor in the decision.
Microsoft censors political content that could anger the Chinese government from Bing search results and LinkedIn posts.
According to The Guardian in 2014, searches for the Dalai Lama and Tiananmen Square, among other topics, returned different results in Chinese and English, suggesting that Microsoft was applying Chinese censorship rules to users not in China as well. Microsoft blamed this on a “systems error.”
And earlier this year, Bing was briefly blocked in China, reportedly for “illegal content,” but service was eventually restored.
Now, Chinese-language censorship is no longer applied through Bing, but the search engine still censors results within China.
The censorship applies to Microsoft-owned LinkedIn, too. According to Wired, in 2014, Hong Kong legislator Charles Mok had a LinkedIn post referencing Tiananmen Square taken down, and he received a message from the company explaining why the post was not visible.
LinkedIn openly supports the censors of China and should be condemned for such acts. pic.twitter.com/mauLDlIOpp
— Charles Mok 莫乃光 (@charlesmok) June 3, 2014
Google had plans for a censored search engine in China, but backlash from employees and the public led it to cancel the project.
In August 2018, The Intercept published Google’s plan to launch a censorship-compliant search engine in China, codenamed Project Dragonfly.
The report said that Dragonfly would “blacklist sensitive queries,” meaning no results would show when people searched certain banned terms. In December 2018, Google CEO Sundar Pichai testified before Congress that the company had no plans to launch a search engine in China. The project has reportedly been halted.
Google has been blocked in China since 2010, when it pulled out of the country at the behest of cofounder Sergey Brin, as part of his motto, “Don’t be evil.”
Airbnb cancels bookings in China during large political events.
In 2018, Airbnb canceled reservations and removed listings in Beijing during China’s National People’s Congress, an annual two-week meeting of parliament. The company told Business Insider it did this due to “external factors,” in order to “be good neighbors.”
Airbnb also removed listings and canceled bookings ahead of the Communist Party’s five-yearly congress.
Blizzard, the company that developed “World of Warcraft” and “Overwatch,” punished a competitor who publicly supported Hong Kong protesters.
Esports competitor Chung Ng Wai, or Blitzchung, yelled “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our age” during an interview at the Hearthstone tournament in Taiwan. Now, Blizzard Entertainment is facing criticism for banning Blitzchung from competitions for a year and rescinding his prize money.
Chinese company Tencent, which also owns WeChat, owns 5% of Activision Blizzard, Blizzard’s parent company.
Popular video app TikTok has reportedly censored content that could upset Chinese officials.
In September, The Guardian published internal documents from TikTok that show moderators were instructed to censor political content that could anger the Chinese government, including Tibetan independence and Tiananmen Square. TikTok said the guidelines were not current, and had been revised in May.
A TikTok spokesperson told Business Insider that China does not ask owner ByteDance to censor content on TikTok, because the app doesn’t operate in the country; its Chinese counterpart Douyin does.