Apple bows to Beijing pressure over contentious Chinese App Store content
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Apple has confirmed reports that it has spiked apps from its Chinese App Store in an effort to align with national regulations surrounding gambling. The company is estimated by Chinese state media to have removed 25,000 apps.
Apple is estimated to have annual business revenues of approximately $50bn in China, where its major competitors, including Google and Amazon, have been firmly shut out.
In China, Apple’s App Store is the only major foreign app platform available. In recent years, the company has been increasingly required to step in line with strict internet regulations, which critics have decried as censorship and surveillance. Earlier this year, for instance, Apple transferred its iCloud cryptographic keys to within the country under new regulations which force foreign companies to store important data within China.
Central China Television (CCTV), a state-backed broadcaster, has twice criticised Apple for allowing gambling apps to be included in the App Store. Gambling – aside from in state-run lotteries – is illegal in China, although casinos can operate in the autonomous regions of Hong Kong and Macau. Amid concerns about online gambling, laws were passed in June explicitly banning poker apps and banning online advertising for poker.
The Wall Street Journal quoted CCTV, saying: “Apple itself has set up the rules on how to allow apps onto its store, but it didn’t follow that, resulting in the proliferation of bogus lottery apps and gambling apps.”
In a statement, Apple said: “We have already removed many apps and developers for trying to distribute illegal gambling apps on our App Store and we are vigilant in our efforts to find these and stop them from being on the App Store.”
Apple has not confirmed the number of gambling apps that it has removed, although Chinese media estimated 25,000 apps, of which 4,000 were tagged explicitly as gambling apps.
In 2017, Apple began removing virtual private network (VPN) apps, which help users access censored online media, as well as apps for foreign media companies such as The New York Times. Meanwhile, Apple continues to face pressure by Chinese authorities relating to its strict privacy policies, such as for refusing to monitor and share communications via its iMessage service.