“It is currently Google Ads’ policy to disallow promoting VPN services in China, due to local legal restrictions,” Google said in an email statement that was received and shared with ZDNet by VPNMentor, a website that offers advice, tips, and reviews of VPN products.
VPNMentor said Google prevented its staff from placing Google search ads for the Chinese version of its site.
When reached out to for a comment, a Google spokesperson told ZDNet the ban on VPN ads in China isn’t a new development.
“We have long-standing policies prohibiting ads in our network for private servers, in countries where such servers are illegal. All advertisers have to comply with local law.”
According to the report, a Google spokesperson didn’t respond to a request for comment seeking information if the “VPN ad ban was set in place on Google’s own decision or after a request from the Chinese officials”.
The Chinese government has been involved in an all-out war against censorship-thwarting software, such as web proxies and VPN apps, for a number of years now.
In 2017, the government tightened its grip on the local VPN landscape, when it started requiring all VPN providers in China to obtain governmental approval.
Chinese officials continued their VPN crackdown in July 2017, when the government forced Apple to remove several VPN apps from its Chinese app store.
At the time, critics accused Apple of bowing to pressure from Beijing cyber regulators.
China’s VPN ban came into effect on March 31, 2018, although some apps continued to work after it.
Nevertheless, Chinese officials are using the ban to target users using unauthorised VPNs.
Earlier this year, a resident of Guangdong was fined 1000 yuan ($164/£123) for creating an unauthorised VPN to connect to international websites.
Despite banning consumers from using VPN apps, China remains one of the top sellers of VPN technologies. According to a November 2018 study, almost 60% of the most popular free VPN applications in the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store are created by Chinese developer or belong to owners in China.
In 2017, the Russian government also passed a law banning VPNs.