Apple has apparently disabled its Apple News app for users in China. Multiple reports say that the news app suddenly “went dark,” refusing to function or has seemingly been blocked for an undisclosed reason.
Apple is currently still quiet regarding the issues, but many users are already suspecting the reasons the app suddenly shut down.
Larry Salibra, founder of Pay4Bugs, wrote in a blog post, “Last week, during a short holiday in Mainland China, I was surprised to find that the News app refused to work from my hotel in Dongguan even though I was using uncensored roaming Internet.”
Salibra added that he was unable to connect to the News app through China mobile, one of the country’s largest carriers. What’s disturbing, and equally alarming, is that all of the content he had previously downloaded in the app were also unavailable.
He added, “They’re censoring news content that I downloaded and stored on my device purchased in the USA, before I even [entered] China just because my phone happens to connect to a Chinese signal floating over the border.”
John Carrol, mass communications professor at Boston University, says, “This is a big concern for people using Apple products for consuming news.” He added, “Apple already has a reputation for picking and choosing the kind of content it’s willing to distribute. Now it’s taking that one step further.”
The problem is more than just Apple denying consumers access to content. Carroll notes, “It’s about Apple going into people’s devices and denying them access to things they’ve stored for offline use.” He quips, “That’s a whole different dimension of control.”
China’s Great Firewall
Consumers and critics alike are blaming China’s increasingly potent online censorship, popularly known as the “Great Firewall of China.” Bill Hagestad II, a global information security researcher, explains China’s iron-fisted cybersecurity law:
“Under the new Chinese cybersecurity law, if foreign companies do not follow the guidance and direction of the Communist Party and their various Internet control entities inside China, then they’re not welcome to have their applications and technologies used by Chinese citizens.”
The new law was primarily motivated by the spread of malware throughout the country, although many feel that there were more underlying reasons the new law seemed to be so repressive.
Apple’s record of censoring content, coupled with China’s firewall, isn’t making life for Apple users in China convenient. Bennet Haselton, the webmaster of Peacefire.org, says, “In China, if Apple disables an app, it’s sometimes because they’re forced to. But in the West, sometimes they disable an app just because they want to.”
He adds, “Few people will go to the trouble of circumventing their restrictions.”
Apple is still silent regarding the issue. It is currently unknown if it was due to the country’s increasing restrictions or something else entirely.