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Apple Censorship
Apple Must End Its Unquestioning Compliance with CAC Orders
2024-04-19 12:44

In a recent move dictated by China's Cyberspace Administration (CAC), Apple has removed several major messaging and social media apps, including, Meta's WhatsApp and Threads, Signal and Telegram Messenger, from its China App Store, citing "national security concerns."

According to AppleCensorship’s App Store Monitor (ASM), the removals appear to have occurred around the 18th or early morning of the 19th of April.

WhatsApp App Details page on AppleCensorship.com: https://applecensorship.com/app-store-monitor/app/310633997

These removals underscore Apple’s ongoing and unquestioning compliance with the Chinese government’s directives, highlighting that its adherence to governmental orders is, at best, misconstrued as lawful obedience. Apple’s claim of following local laws does not stand when orders from the CAC overstep legal norms and venture into arbitrary enforcement. Furthermore, Apple has failed to provide a transparent legal justification for these actions.

Signal - Private Messenger App Details page: https://applecensorship.com/app-store-monitor/app/874139669

Telegram Messenger App Details page: https://applecensorship.com/app-store-monitor/app/686449807

"We are yet to discover how many apps have been targeted in this recent wave of removals, and we fear that other, less prominent apps may have also been removed alongside these popular messaging and information platforms. However, what is already clear is that Apple continues to serve as Beijing’s censorship arm, compromising the fundamental rights of millions of users to access information without hesitation," said Benjamin Ismail, Director of GreatFire's AppCensorship project.

"Complying with the law is fundamentally different from yielding to government's extrajudicial demands. The removal of these apps under the vague pretext of national security, without any clear legal mandate, reflects a compliance that prioritizes profit-driven motives to appease the Chinese government," Ismail added.

Threads App Details page: https://applecensorship.com/app-store-monitor/app/6446901002

Interestingly, other major apps like Instagram and Messenger remain available in the China App Store, underscoring the inconsistency and selectivity of Apple's compliance.

Instagram App Details page:https://applecensorship.com/app-store-monitor/app/389801252

The removal of these apps follows the CAC’s pattern of overreaching decisions, such as the notable crackdown on DiDi in 2021, which also saw Apple's compliance in removing the app from its platform.

Such a policy of unquestioning compliance by Apple not only suppresses free expression and access to information but also contributes further to the splintering of the internet, creating a segmented digital world where access is dictated by political and economic agendas rather than user rights and freedoms,” Ismail concluded.

GreatFire demands that Apple take actions consistent with its stated commitment to human rights and start questioning its role in facilitating state censorship under the guise of legal compliance.

As we continue to witness the removal of vital communication tools, it becomes imperative to challenge and scrutinize the legal grounds of such compliance, advocating for a clear distinction between lawful adherence and complicity in suppression.

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