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.

Filed Under: , ,
Companies: apple

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Apple Bows To Chinese Censorship Demands”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Anonymous Coward says:

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.

RyanNerd (profile) says:

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.

Beta (profile) says:

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.

BearGriz72 (profile) says:

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! 😉

lfroen (profile) says:

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.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

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.

art guerrilla (profile) says:

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

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: 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.

Anonymous Coward says:

‘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!

Ninja (profile) says:

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.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...