The Great Firewall of China, the restrictive web filters that the country has put into place, just became much taller for China's citizens.
An upgrade made by the government of China made the web filters stricter and smarter, raising concerns among Chinese users and increasing the gap between the Internet accessible in the country and the World Wide Web.
The upgrades have increased the difficulty of using virtual private networks, or VPNs, to work around China's implemented filters to block United States-based services such as Facebook and Google.
Chinese authorities have confirmed that they are looking to take down VPNs, adding that the upgrades were required due to the constant evolution of the Internet. During the week, major providers of the service, including Astrill, reported that there have been disruptions to the VPNs that they operate.
The upgraded Great Firewall of China shows the government's desire to establish an online environment in the country that it could control more easily. While the filters protect the growing Internet companies in China from stronger rival companies in other countries, the filters also prevent content that criticize the government of China from entering the country.
According to a VPN operator from Romania, the blocks against VPNs newly implemented by China appear to be more dynamic and automated. While the firewall previously only blocked VPNs, the upgrades have allowed the filters to search and block connections that the system decides are likely VPNs.
The battle by the government against VPNs has caused complications among business operators in China, as they rely on Internet services such as Twitter and Gmail to communicate with both partners and customers.
In addition, Shanghai-based independent college counselor Liheng Bai stated that the blocks against VPNs have also caused difficulties among students and educators.
"In the long run, it really affects Chinese students' access to the latest information in education, science and literature. It's very narrowing and limits their world view," she said, adding that the search results obtained from Baidu, a Chinese search engine, are very different compared to the search results from Google.
The blocks against VPNs join the decreased connections speeds for accessing foreign websites to negatively affect the productivity of engineers and researchers in China, along with other professionals, who are required to monitor the global developments within their respective industries.
While the state media argues that the disadvantages of the Great Firewall of China are outweighed by the benefits granted to the tech sector of China, the upgraded filters will most likely lead to VPN providers developing even more creative ways to work around the country's restrictive Internet.