Apple Bows To Chinese Censorship Demands

from the tibet-or-not-tibet dept

It isn't news that Apple's app store is a garden with some mighty high, awfully arbitrary walls. Whether Apple is rejecting developer's apps on the grounds of profanity or subject matter, the fact is that the reasoning for these takedowns is a thinly veiled form of what I call "Apple morality". Swearing is bad for kids, or kids shouldn't have access to games about war. Definitely no nudity. These, business practices or not, are all moral claims. We might disagree with their version of morality, but that's what it is.

Which is why I'd be curious to hear Apple's reasoning for taking down an app in China that allowed users to read books about Tibet. The company claimed that they did so because that content is illegal in China, of course.

The app, "jingdian shucheng", offered access to ten books via the iPhone and iPad. Mr Hao said he believed three titles by Wang Lixiong, a political writer and activist, had prompted the ban, according to The Financial Times. Mr Wang is a prominent critic of Chinese policy in Tibet.
Here's the problem: if you're going to take a moral stance in the rest of the world, you need to take one in China as well. Bowing to pressures to censor speech in China would not square with any flavor of morality. On the other hand, were Apple to stick to their "it's illegal" reason for taking the app down, then they need to come out and explain the other examples of takedowns above, since those are not illegal. It seems to me that Apple wants to apply their "Apple morality" everywhere...until a dollar is introduced.
Concern over Apple’s weakness in the booming Chinese smartphone market has been seen by investors as a potential problem for its continued growth. It has been a major cause of a share price slump in recent months that has forced Mr Cook to repeatedly defend his strategy. The firm has been repeatedly rumoured to be developing a cheaper iPhone designed to court Chinese consumers but it has not yet revealed its plans.
In other words, rather than try to push the Chinese to stop censoring, as others have, Apple is selling their convictions down the Huang He river in favor of money. Nice going, guys.



Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    ScytheNoire, Apr 10th, 2013 @ 8:40pm

    Why is this news?

    How is this any different than companies catering to the US Government demands for censorship and private information? Companies are constantly doing this. China and the US are not so different. Neither should be catered to.

     

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  2.  
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    Beta (profile), Apr 10th, 2013 @ 8:44pm

    fair's fair

    "[W]ere Apple to stick to their "it's illegal" reason for taking the app down, then they need to come out and explain the other examples of takedowns above, since those are not illegal."

    To be fair, Apple can have more than one criterion for rejecting an app. They can refuse one because it allows locally illegal subject matter, and another because it allows material Apple considers too strong for children.

    Hey, if they want to reduce their own market share arbitrarily, that's their prerogative.

     

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  3.  
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    BearGriz72 (profile), Apr 10th, 2013 @ 8:46pm

    Yet another reason why I don't buy iCrap...

    Along with those previously arbitrary walls, said "Apple morality", their closed source proprietary bullshit, and the distinct lack of functional interoperability (without hacking/cracking/unlocking/whatever) with non-Apple products/software.

    Support FOSS & Open-source hardware!
    Hack The Planet! ;-)

     

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  4.  
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    Sean, Apr 10th, 2013 @ 9:05pm

    it's all about business

    Apple's rejection policies about Apps are not based on morality, but business. (Apps which users find offensive, especially potentially outraged parents, are bad for business.) Apple is a tech company, not a moral guide. Complying with censorship is also the right move business wise.

     

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  5.  
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    totalz (profile), Apr 10th, 2013 @ 9:22pm

    Another good example to show Apple is all about money. Yes, business is business, don't misuse that as innovation.

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 10th, 2013 @ 9:56pm

    why is this different from conservative web sites like Florida Family Association attacking companies like EA because of the game containing gay, or lesbian characters ?

    or trying to stop companies from advertising, because of the programming on that station ?

     

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  7.  
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    lfroen (profile), Apr 10th, 2013 @ 11:04pm

    Re: Yet another reason why I don't buy iCrap...

    How about another idea: fix your (Chinese in this case) government and don't cry when Apple (Google/Microsoft) don't want to do it for you?

    If some $country have a law that forbid to insult present ruler, guess what? Apple will comply. Because it's up to people to deal with regime.

    Wake me up when you have open-source design of AND-gate in 20nm process.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
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    Zakida Paul (profile), Apr 11th, 2013 @ 12:11am

    Re: Why is this news?

    UK, too. People can moan about Chinese firewalls and censorship all they want but the fact is, the same thing happens in the US and UK, as well. The scary thing is that, 9 times out of 10, they will get away with it here.

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 11th, 2013 @ 12:36am

    Profit will beat Basic Human Rights every time for any commercial entity. That's why it's a bad idea to let them run the country as a corporocracy...

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 11th, 2013 @ 2:30am

    Re: Why is this news?

    The difference is the marketing. In China it is hush hush, while USA is giving reasons like "we need to protect our children", "piracy is theft" and "we will get a massive boost in trade".
    Also, USA has put China on the black list and harrass them as much as possible. It is not helping USA one bit, except for creating the illusive enemy that is such a central piece in keeping the people content with war and government spending in the 1984-esque world.

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 11th, 2013 @ 2:34am

    Re:

    Don't know about those sites but I regularly attack EA because of their gay characters. Not because they're gay but because they're shoehorned in and make the player feel like they're sexually harassed.

    Seriously, I bought a game about killing bad guys with swords and magic. I don't care to have a guy constantly pestering me to let him skewer my backside. I wouldn't put up with it in real life so I'm sure as hell not going to put up with it in my entertainment.

    I'd also have a problem if they wrote in a female sex pest.

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 11th, 2013 @ 4:12am

    Re: Re: Yet another reason why I don't buy iCrap...

    "Wake me up when you have open-source design of AND-gate in 20nm process"

    What has that got to do with the price of eggs?

    Open Soruce and open design all ready kick ass in all the sectors it has penetrated.

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 11th, 2013 @ 4:24am

    'Apple wants to apply their "Apple morality" everywhere...until a dollar is introduced.'

    how right you are! it's funny how companies take the 'moral high ground' until doing so is realised as a reduction in revenue. it's nothing less than the usual 'double standards' that a lot of companies but Apple in particular suffer from!

     

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  14.  
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    Ninja (profile), Apr 11th, 2013 @ 5:08am

    Concern over Apple’s weakness in the booming Chinese smartphone market has been seen by investors as a potential problem for its continued growth.

    When I see things like this it just makes me want to tell such investors a big and loud "FUCK YOU". But then again money is much, much more important than anything else so...

    Humanity has a long way to go before we can evolve from this crude rotten turd we are generally speaking.

     

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  15.  
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    RyanNerd (profile), Apr 11th, 2013 @ 5:24am

    Re: Re: Why is this news?

    The reason this isn't news is because it is commonplace for companies *cough Google *cough Microsoft, etc. to lower their standards and bend to countries with high censorship and bad human rights track records for the sake of the almighty dollar. Always with the excuse of: "it's against the law of this country, and we are simply obeying the laws of this land."
    Apple is being a hypocrite again. This is old news.

     

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  16.  
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    lfroen (profile), Apr 11th, 2013 @ 5:34am

    Re:

    Why "fuck you"? For commercial entity, in China(!!), money is _supposed_ to be more important that some arbitrary set of US principles.

    Evolution is lengthy process in general, and current set of "human rights" is not that different of 10 commandments, which are more than 2000 years old.

     

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  17.  
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    TaCktiX, Apr 11th, 2013 @ 6:37am

    Re: Re:

    10 Commandments are close on 3500 years old.

     

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  18.  
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    DannyB (profile), Apr 11th, 2013 @ 8:21am

    Apple needs China

    Apple's iOS platform is going to become a minority platform compared to Android, and Apple knows this.

    Android is big in China. Apple needs China. Morals are easy to compromise when market share is at stake in the only growth market left that Apple could potentially make headway into.

     

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  19.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Apr 11th, 2013 @ 9:35am

    Re: Re: Yet another reason why I don't buy iCrap...

    If some $country have a law that forbid to insult present ruler, guess what? Apple will comply. Because it's up to people to deal with regime.


    But... I thought that corporations were people!

     

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  20.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Apr 11th, 2013 @ 9:39am

    Re: it's all about business

    Apple is a tech company, not a moral guide.


    That's a meaningless argument because it cuts both ways. The same sentence would apply equally well to defend a company when it refuses to bow to morality-based demands.

    Complying with censorship is also the right move business wise.


    That answers a completely different question. Whether or not something is a good business move is independent of whether or not that action is objectionable.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Apr 11th, 2013 @ 9:41am

    Re:

    You mean, aside from the enormous difference between private and government action? Nothing.

     

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  22.  
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    lfroen (profile), Apr 11th, 2013 @ 11:36am

    Re: Re: Re: Yet another reason why I don't buy iCrap...

    >> What has that got to do with the price of eggs?

    What kind of "open source hardware" can you build, when you missing even simplest building block?

    Do you have open-source place-and-route tools? How about synthesis? Timing check?

    Clueless idiot.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
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    art guerrilla (profile), Apr 11th, 2013 @ 12:52pm

    Re: it's all about business

    say wha' ? ? ?

    its not about 'morality', but (some unknown and unknowable tiny minority of loudmouthed prudes) *might* potentially bitch about it sullying their 'reputation', and THAT isn't 'morality' ? ? ?
    THAT is the VERY DEFINITION of (so-called) 'morality'...
    you're full of it, fanboi...

    pron makes money, richtig ? ? ?
    they don't sell pron, why not, it makes money ? ? ?
    THAT is a (supposedly) 'moral' choice right there...

    art guerrilla
    aka ann archy
    eof

     

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  24.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 11th, 2013 @ 3:18pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Which is, as he said, more than 2000. On another note, 640K ought to be enough for anybody.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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