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- The US has blacklisted a slew of Chinese companies this year, including major tech entities like Huawei, from doing business in the country.
- On the flip side, China has long blocked major US tech companies, including Facebook and Google, from operating in the country.
- Here are the major tech companies that are blocked in China behind the country’s so-called “Great Firewall” of internet censorship.
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Meanwhile, US tech companies have been largely banned from doing business in China for years. Communist-ruled China has long maintained strict regulations on which websites and social media platforms are accessible in the country – and which are blocked behind China’s so-called “Great Firewall” of internet censorship.
That ban prevents companies like Facebook, Google, and Dropbox from reaching the country’s over 800 million internet users. Just this week, Apple removed two apps from its App Store that are seen as potentially offensive to China. An app called HKMap Live, used by protesters in Hong Kong to track police activity, was removed after Apple said it was being used to “target and ambush police.” Additionally, the US publication Quartz had its app removed from Apple’s China App Store and blocked in mainland China.
Despite the ban, China still factors into the equation for US companies: Facebook, for example, saw an estimated $5 billion in ad revenue from Chinese-based companies in 2018, making the country the company’s second largest ad market, according to AdAge.
That “firewall” isn’t impenetrable, either, as some Chinese citizens have found ways to circumvent blocks on websites by using virtual private networks (VPNs).
Here are the all the major US tech companies that are blocked from use in China, according to censorship tracker Great Fire:
Includes: Instagram, WhatsApp, Messenger
When it was first blocked: July 2009, in the wake of deadly riots in western China when the platform was used for communication among protesters. Instagram was blocked in September 2014 during pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, and WhatsApp was blocked in September 2017.
Includes: YouTube, Gmail, Google Play, Google Maps, Google Drive, Hangouts, Blogger
When it was first blocked: YouTube was blocked on-and-off multiple times in the late 2000s, including in October 2007, March 2008 during riots in Tibet, and in March 2009 when it went down in the country for good.
Particular queries on Google, including those related to politics, have long been censored in China. Google.cn, the company’s China-based search engine, was shut down in 2010 following disputes over censorship of search queries. Google’s family of apps – including Gmail and Google Maps – have went offline multiple times, including in November 2012 and December 2014.
Reports emerged in 2018 that Google was working on a censored search engine for Chinese users called Project Dragonfly. The project was reportedly cancelled in December after facing outrage from Google employees and human rights groups, but some activists are not fully convinced Google has officially scrapped plans.
Despite the ban, Twitter still has an estimated 10 million active users in China, who use VPNs to circumvent the ban.
- Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images
When it was first blocked: It’s unclear when Snapchat was initially banned in China, but the social platform does have a small office in the country to work on Spectacles, Snap’s camera-equipped smart sunglasses.
- Guru Khalsa
- Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images
When it was first blocked: May 2016, although pages containing political and pornographic content have been heavily censored in China before then.
- Hollis Johnson/Business Insider
When it was first blocked: March 2017, around the time when China was hosting its annual “Two Sessions” political gathering.
When it was first blocked: The timeline of when Slack was first blocked in China is not clear, but access to the messaging app has been “somewhat inconsistent” for years, according to the company itself.
Twitch, an Amazon subsidiary
- Getty/Steve Jennings
- Kimberly White/Getty Images for TechCrunch.
When it was first blocked: Reports first surfaced in mid-2018 that users of the popular chat app for gamers were unable to access the service in China.
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- Digital First Media Group/Bay Area News via Getty Images
When it was first blocked: The popular Q&A site was first blocked in China in August 2018.
When it was first blocked: The blogging site was unavailable in the country from April 2016.
When it was first blocked: The video site went down in China pretty early, in October 2009.
When it was first blocked: The photo site went behind the “Great Firewall” in June 2007, just a few years after Yahoo bought it. Nowadays, SmugMug owns Flickr, but it doesn’t appear like the site’s situation in China has changed at all.
- Washington Post via Getty Images
When it was first blocked: The privacy-focused search engine was blocked in September 2014.
- Reuters/Jean-Paul Pelissier
When it was first blocked: Like several popular video-sharing sites, Dailymotion is blocked in China, although it’s not clear when it went into effect.