Apple complied with 100% of all Chinese government app takedown requests in 2020, according to a watchdog report released Thursday.
In 2019 and 2020, China’s Apple App Store represented around 55% of all government takedown requests and was the source of almost 75% of all app removals, according to the report from GreatFire, an organization that bills itself as being dedicated to fighting internet censorship.
Apple’s App Store not only totally complied with China’s app takedown requests in 2020, but also self-censored content with which the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) disagreed, the report found.
“Apple proactively polices China’s App Store,” the report stated, adding that the Chinese government doesn’t always have to “formally request these removals.”
“It is a fact that Apple tightened its control of the App Store at the demand of Chinese authorities,” Benjamin Ismail, project director for GreatFire’s AppleCensorship.com, told the Daily Caller New Foundation, citing Apple’s deletion of tens of thousands of game apps in 2020, following government pressure.
While Apple’s biannual Transparency Reports documented the number of app removals arising from government requests, the reports didn’t disclose a total which included the apps Apple proactively removed without government enticement, a GreatFire press release stated.
Whereas Apple’s Transparency Report cited the removal of 1,060 flagged apps, more than 30,000 apps were removed when the number of proactively self-censored apps was taken into account, according to the press release.
Labeling Apple “another branch of the Chinese censorship apparatus,” Ismail added that the reason the tech firm had been so successful in China was due to its “alliance with the Chinese authoritarian government.”
Apple’s revenue surpassed $25 billion in China in Q1 2022, according to a financial report.
Almost 90% of all Apple apps removed related to religion were taken from China’s Apple App Store, with two-thirds of those apps being related to Christianity specifically, the report noted.
China’s Apple App Store also removed the majority of news apps, security and privacy apps and apps related to the LGBT lifestyle, despite Apple’s CEO Tim Cook being a member of that community, according to CNN.
Meanwhile, China’s Apple App Store reportedly hosted a paramilitary organization sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department for having a “connection to serious human rights abuses against ethnic minorities in Xinjiang,” according to a report from The Information.
Apple did not respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.
Ailan Evans contributed to this report.
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