Authorities in China have tightened their grip on internet use in the country through a 14-month long campaign that will target the use of virtual private networks (VPNs) and other "illegal" internet practices.
An advisory on the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology website published on Jan. 22 stated that the campaign aimed at "cleaning up" the internet would last till Mar. 31, 2018. The release also stated that the campaign would strengthen the network information security and encourage the "healthy" development of the industry.
As part of the campaign, locally-based VPN providers need to be approved by the authorities before they can continue business or risk operating illegally. Data centers, internet service providers and content distribution networks will also have to comply with the rules.
VPNs are frequently used in China to access sites such as Facebook and YouTube that are blocked by authorities. The regulation of the internet in China is carried out through measures that are collectively known as the Great Firewall, which censor and criminalize sensitive material on the internet.
In the Freedom on the Net report published by Freedom House in 2015, China placed last in an index measuring internet freedom around the world.