The largest internet retailer in China, Alibaba, has banned the use of Bitcoin in their transactions amid a government crackdown on the digital currency. This measure is set to take effect on January 19th.

John Spelich, a spokesman for Alibaba, confirmed the policy and said the ban was implemented “in the interest of consumer protection”.

The new rule will make the use of Bitcoin even harder in the world’s second largest economy, even as its popularity grows among investors and consumers. Chinese investors helped drive its price to highs of above US$1000 in late 2013.

China’s central bank has not prohibited the ownership or use of Bitcoin, but has discouraged it by stating that it is not to be considered a currency. This means that banks are not allowed to trade, underwrite, or offer insurance in Bitcoin. Chinese regulators have also ordered third-party payment services to not deal in Bitcoin.

Governments worldwide have also taken a dim view of the currency. In the United States, lawmakers have been examining measures to regulate Bitcoin, which is used in some online markets for drugs and other illegal goods.

Supporters of regulation believe that it would be good for Bitcoin because it would lead to wider adoption. But others say that the currency is independent by design and government should leave it alone.

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