One of these ways is the removal of apps from its App Store that Chinese authorities don’t like and the number of these has reached over 3,000 to date.
However, the giant, a rare US tech firm that is allowed access to the vast mainland China market and manufacturing resources, wants to qualify its cooperation with the Beijing authorities as limited only to compliance with the law of the land.
But the investigation, carried out by the Tech Transparency Report (TTP), makes two damning allegations: that Apple removes apps not only for being illegal but also for their political content, and that the company implements some of this censorship “proactively” – i.e., resorts to self-censorship before China even asks.
Based on data from Great Fire, the TTP analysis revealed that Apple has removed 3,257 apps from the China App Store so far, while as many as 964 of these have to do with politics and China’s censorship itself.
Namely, a majority of these apps are designed to help mainland China citizens bypass online censorship – these are hundreds of applications providing proxies and VPN services, the review of the data showed.
Another category of banned apps that reaches hundreds of removals are news media, including apps for outlets from Europe, the US, but also Taiwan, Tibet, and Hong Kong.
Speaking of Hong Kong, Apple also removed a number of apps used by pro-democracy protesters there, which is one of the acts of App Store censorship and Apple’s cooperative stance toward the Chinese authorities that draw a lot of attention and criticism in the US.
Apps dedicated to religion, like Christianity, Islam, Falun Gong, and the Dalai Lama also disappeared from the store in their dozens, along with more than two dozen of those created for the LGBT community.
All this puts a question mark over the accuracy of the company’s own transparency reports, while critics say Apple is going too far in satisfying China’s wishes, at the expense of free speech and democracy.