HONG KONG (AP) – Yahoo Inc. said on Tuesday it was leaving China, citing an increasingly challenging operating environment.
This conclusion was largely symbolic, as many of the company’s services had already been blocked by China’s digital censorship. But recent moves by the government to expand its control over tech companies in general, including local giants, may have tipped the balance in Yahoo.
“Given the increasingly complex business and legal environment in China, Yahoo’s suite of services will no longer be available from mainland China on November 1,” the company said in a statement. He said that he “remains committed to the rights of our users and a free and open Internet.”
The company’s move is fueled by feuds between the US and Chinese governments over technology and trade. The US has imposed restrictions on telecom giant Huawei and other Chinese tech companies, claiming they are affiliated with the Chinese government, the military, or both. China says the US is unfairly suppressing competition and trying to block China’s technological growth.
Yahoo is the last foreign technology company to emerge from China. Google gave up a few years ago, and professional networking platform Microsoft LinkedIn said last month that it would shut down its Chinese site, replacing it with a job board. These biases illustrate the choices that Internet companies face in a huge potential market, but in a marketplace where the government requires them to censor content and keywords that are considered politically sensitive or inappropriate.
Instead, Chinese companies have filled the void by creating an alternative Internet with their own digital giants. The search engine Baidu has largely replaced Yahoo and Google in China, and WeChat and Weibo are the leading social media platforms.
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Yahoo’s departure coincided with the enactment of China’s Personal Information Protection Law, which limits the amount of information companies can collect and sets standards for how it is stored.
Chinese laws also stipulate that companies operating in the country must transmit data at the request of the authorities, making it difficult for Western firms to operate in China as they may also face pressure at home to succumb to Chinese demands.
In 2007, Yahoo was heavily criticized by US lawmakers after it gave Beijing data on two Chinese dissidents, which ultimately led to their imprisonment.
Yahoo previously cut back on its operations in China, ditching music and email in the early 2010s and closing its Beijing office in 2015. Anyone who tried to access Engadget China, the tech news site it was still running, was greeted on Tuesday with a pop-up message that the site would no longer post content.
China has also blocked most international social networks and search engines such as Facebook and Google. Some users in China bypass the block by using a virtual private network (VPN) that masks your identity and from where you log in.
Verizon Communications Inc. acquired Yahoo in 2017 and merged it with AOL, but later sold it to private equity firm Apollo Global Management in a $ 5 billion deal. In September, Apollo announced the completion of the Yahoo acquisition.