Apple’s commitments in China: 5 conclusions

Apple has created an internal bureaucracy that rejects or removes applications that the company believes could violate Chinese rules. Apple trains its app reviewers and uses special software to inspect apps for any mention of topics Apple has deemed prohibited in China, including Tiananmen Square, the Chinese spiritual movement Falun Gong, the Dalai Lama, and independence. from Tibet and Taiwan.

Apple said it removes apps in China to comply with local laws.

In 2018, China’s internet regulators ordered Apple to reject an app from Guo Wengui, a Chinese billionaire who had broadcast allegations of corruption within the Communist Party. Senior Apple executives then decided to add Guo to Apple’s “China sensitivities list,” which meant the software would scan apps for mention and app reviewers would be trained to reject their apps, according to court documents.

When an app from Mr. Guo later escaped Apple’s defenses and was posted on the App Store, Chinese officials contacted Apple for answers. Apple’s chief app reviewer sent his colleagues an email at 2:32 am saying, “This app and any Guo Wengui apps cannot be in the China store.” Apple investigated the incident and then fired the app reviewer who had approved the app.

Apple said it had fired the app reviewer for poor performance and removed Mr. Guo’s app in China because it had determined it was illegal there.

Since 2017, roughly 55,000 active apps have disappeared from Apple’s App Store in China, with most remaining available in other countries, according to a Times analysis.

More than 35,000 of those apps were games, which in China must get approval from regulators. The remaining 20,000 span a wide range of categories, including foreign media, gay dating services, and encrypted messaging apps. Apple also blocked tools for organizing pro-democracy protests and circumventing Internet restrictions, as well as apps about the Dalai Lama.

Apple questioned The Times’ figures and said some developers removed their own apps from China.

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