Apple Pulls WhatsApp, Threads from China App Store

Apple Pulls WhatsApp, Threads from China App Store
Photo: unsplash.com 19.04.2024 511

As explained by the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), the decision is related to the country's national security issue.

Apple  said on Friday it had removed Meta Platforms*' WhatsApp and Threads from its App Store in China after being ordered to do so by the Chinese government, which cited national security concerns.

Telegram and Signal - two other foreign messaging apps - were also removed from the store on Friday, according to app tracking firms Qimai and AppMagic.The removal of the four apps suggests growing intolerance on the part of China's central government towards at least some foreign online messaging services that fall outside of its control. It also signals less leeway for Apple in China.

"The Cyberspace Administration of China ordered the removal of these apps from the China storefront based on their national security concerns," Apple said in an emailed statement. "We are obligated to follow the laws in the countries where we operate, even when we disagree," the statement said.

That said, other Meta* apps including Facebook*, Instagram* and Messenger remained available to download, according to Reuters checks on Friday. Many other popular apps developed by Western companies including YouTube and X were also available.

None of the four apps are widely used in China — where Tencent's WeChat is by far the dominant service.

These apps and many foreign apps are normally blocked on Chinese networks by the "Great Firewall" — the country's extensive cybersystem of censorship — and can only be used with a virtual private network or other proxy tools.

The four apps remain available in Hong Kong and Macau, China's two special administrative regions.

Some experts on China's tech industry said the government order on WhatsApp and Threads could be related to a new rule last August that requires all apps available in China to register with the government or risk being removed.

The deadline for companies to complete registrations was the end of March and the regulations came into effect on April 1.

Apple has removed apps from its China app store before.

In 2017, Apple removed The New York Times news app, saying it violated local regulations - a move that came amid rising news censorship in the world's second-largest economy. It remains unavailable on Apple's China App Store.

Last year, Apple pulled a number of ChatGPT-like apps when Beijing was working on local regulations on generative artificial intelligence (AI) services.

*banned and designated as extremist in Russia

Source: Reuters

digital markets  China 

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