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Apple iTunes website falls victim of China censorship: Beijing Olympics 2008

Posted by Author on August 24, 2008

By Peter Foster in Beijing, The Telegraph, UK, 22 Aug 2008-

“Songs for Tibet”, produced by a group called The Art of Peace Foundation, featured 20 tracks by artists such as Sting, Moby, Suzanne Vega and Alanis Morissette and was intended to raise global awareness of the Tibetan issue.

Apple users in China first started reporting problems accessing the iTunes site on Monday, the same day that US-based Campaign for Tibet announced in a report that 40 Olympic athletes had downloaded the album.

Chatrooms, blogsites and message forums across China filled up with upset users complaining about the block which is assumed to be Tibet-related, although Chinese authorities haven’t formally confirmed this.

Several upset “netizens” – internet users – quoted pro-forma Apple customer support advice admitting that access to the site was “restricted in some areas in China”.

“I would advise that you contact your ISP [internet service provider] about this matter,” the advice concluded.

All ISPs in China are effectively controlled by the Chinese government which blocks what it regards as “sensitive or illegal” websites using keywords such as “Tibet”, “Falun Gong” or “Dalai Lama” to filter out web-traffic it deems inimical to China’s national interest.

iTunes sites are country-specific; however, many expatriates and returning Chinese still access the sites using credit cards registered in the US or Europe.

The apparent blocking of the iTunes site comes after Apple opened its first high street store in Beijing on the eve of the Olympic Games, billing it as the ‘first of many’ to be opened in a potentially lucrative market.

It remains to be seen what impact the blocking will have on Apple’s expansion plans in China. As part of a pledge to provide media covering the Beijing Olympics with unfettered access to the web, China had pledged to unblock many websites which were previously off-limits.

However despite unblocking some sites on the eve of the Games after pressure from the International Olympic Committee, many sites that mention Tibet, human rights and the outlawed Falun Gong religious group remain inaccessible.

– Original: Beijing Olympics 2008: Apple iTunes falls victim of Chinese censorship

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