Yahoo Inc_ says it has pulled out of China, citing an “increasingly challenging business and legal environment”.
The withdrawal was largely symbolic, as many of the company’s services had already been blocked by China’s digital censorship. But recent steps the government has taken to expand its control over tech companies, which typically include its domestic giants, have rattled the scales for Yahoo.
“In recognition of the increasingly challenging business and legal environment in China, Yahoo’s suite of services will no longer be available from mainland China,” the company said in a statement. It said it was “committed to the rights of our users and a free and open Internet.”
The company’s move comes amid a dispute between the US and Chinese governments over technology and trade. The US has banned telecom giant Huawei and other Chinese tech companies, alleging they have links with China’s government, military or both. China says that the US is unfairly suppressing competition and trying to block China’s technological development.
Yahoo is the latest foreign tech company to exit China. Google quit several years ago, and Microsoft’s professional networking platform LinkedIn said last month that it would shut down its Chinese site, replacing it with a job board instead. The departure describes options that Internet companies face in a vast potential market, but one where the government requires them to censor content and keywords deemed politically sensitive or inappropriate.
In their place, Chinese companies have filled the void, creating an alternative Internet with digital giants of their own. Baidu search engine has largely replaced Yahoo and Google in China, and WeChat and Weibo are the major social media platforms.
Yahoo’s departure coincided with the implementation of China’s personal information protection law, which limits what information companies can collect and sets standards for how it should be stored.
Chinese laws also stipulate that companies operating in the country must hand over data when requested by authorities, making it difficult for Western firms to operate in China as they face pressure to meet China’s demands. may have to.
Yahoo was heavily criticized by lawmakers in the US in 2007 when it handed over data on two Chinese dissidents to Beijing, which ultimately led to their imprisonment.
Yahoo previously scaled down its operations in China, abandoned a music and email service in early 2010, and closed its Beijing office in 2015. Anyone who tried to reach Engadget China, a tech news site that it continued to operate, was greeted on Tuesday with a popup saying the site would no longer publish content.
Verizon Communications Inc. acquired Yahoo in 2017 and merged it with AOL, but later sold the entity to private equity firm Apollo Global Management in a $5 billion deal. Apollo announced in September that its acquisition of Yahoo was complete.