After the termination of Skype partnership with Tom Online, Microsoft may have removed all censorship filters for Chinese Internet users.
Skype VoIP software has a special version for China, due to government censorship. Skype worked for several years via TOM Online, the Chinese provider. But in 2008, researchers had identified that written conversations via instant messaging Skype software were monitored and censored. And the agreement signed in 2006 with Skype had ended and was not renewed by Microsoft which bought Skype in 2011. Early 2013, several activists and organizations defending the freedom of expression expressed their concern and called for more transparency at Microsoft.
Microsoft just announced the end of its partnership with Tom Online to form a new joint venture with Guangming Founder. An update of the software would be thus actually implemented among Chinese netizens. On its official blog, the Skype team explains that its new partner excels in the field of mobile communication technologies.
According to a report of GreatFire.org, which monitors the level of net censorship in China, Microsoft would have removed all filters put in place by the authorities to monitor users’ exchanges. Connection information, phone calls and instant messages are all encrypted and would transit without intermediate to Microsoft HTTPS servers in secure mode. This information was previously managed via TOM Online servers.
Microsoft, gave no details on this new version of Skype which Windows edition (only) is hosted on a subdomain of Guangming Founder. For now, we do not know if it basically the same as the previous versions, or if it includes specific monitoring mechanisms. We just know that the software signature was done by Microsoft who therefore controls its source code. These changes could also mean the end of Windows Live Messenger in China, the only country where this app is still functioning.
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