According to reports, it appears Apple has blocked its News app in China, due to to censorship rules, leaving a slew of customers outraged with this decision.
The software designed for iPhone and iPad devices had been initially unveiled by the Cupertino, California-based company on June 8. The iOS app had been created in order provide “the best news reading experience” by allowing users to collect stories, based on personal preference and interest.
In its customizable news feed, articles chosen from top publishers are combined, in order to keep clients informed as world events unfold. Currently, this service is only available to residents from the U.S., and is being tested in Australia and the U.K. as well.
Theoretically speaking at least, American users who have downloaded the app can continue to use it when they travel abroad. In practice however, the software is no longer functional upon entering the East Asian country.
Instead, an error message is displayed, with the following announcement: “Can’t refresh right now. News isn’t supported in your current region”.
It may be that this measure was taken in response to China’s legislation, which aims to carefully regulate online discourse. On July 1, a new security law was introduced, which declares that government control extends into cyberspace as well.
According to the National People’s Congress, information systems and networks must be “secure and controllable”, and this extends even to”harmful cultural influences” from the West.
The deactivation of Apple’s News app may indicate that the company is trying to toe the line, and not stir any controversy by breaching China’s strict rules. Normally, the Beijing government states that harmful content must be filtered by companies so that it can no longer reach the public and influence their mindsets.
Therefore, instead of designing a special, censored news feed that removed any potentially sensitive information, the company has opted to discontinue the service in its entirety.
As the New York Times reports, the Asian country has become Apple’s second biggest market after the United States, generating $13 billion in sales in the third quarter of 2015. Therefore, too much is at risk by causing discontent among China’s officials, and this strategic measure had to be taken, in order to appease the government.
However, critics still insist that the company shouldn’t have surrendered to China’s censorship rules. Larry Salibra, founder and CEO of Pay4Bugs, has nicknamed this controversial decision the “China Kill Switch”.
According to him, it’s not professional of Apple to activate the location of the user without prior consent and block the app forcibly. In addition, the company also finds itself guilty of on-device censorship, since it also prevents users from accessing news content that they had downloaded on their phones while they were still in the U.S.
As he explains, the fact that the tech giant had no choice but to bow down to China’s rules, doesn’t make this measure “any less creepy or outrageous”.
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