Single Choke Point Problems: Apple Removes NY Times App From Chinese App Store After Chinese Gov't Complains
from the censorship-made-easy dept
One of the wonders of the internet was that it was supposed to be a distributed computer system, meaning that it would be harder to take down and harder to censor. But, over time, things keep getting more and more centralized. And that’s especially true in the mobile ecosystem, and doubly so for the Apple iOS mobile ecosystem (at least on Android it’s much easier to sideload apps). The latest demonstration of this is that Apple agreed to remove apps from the NY Times from its iOS app store in China, complying with demands from the Chinese government:
Apple removed both the English-language and Chinese-language apps from the app store in China on Dec. 23. Apps from other international publications, including The Financial Times and The Wall Street Journal, were still available in the app store.
?We have been informed that the app is in violation of local regulations,? Fred Sainz, an Apple spokesman, said of the Times apps. ?As a result, the app must be taken down off the China App Store. When this situation changes, the App Store will once again offer the New York Times app for download in China.?
The article about this — in the NY Times, naturally — says that the paper has asked Apple to reconsider. No one is clear on exactly why this is happening, but the (reasonable) assumption is that it has to do with the new regulations China put in place over the summer that demand all internet news providers must be approved by the Chinese government — which the Chinese are spinning as part of its effort to crack down on “fake news.”
Of course, this really just highlights two separate, but equally worrisome trends: (1) the increasing centralization of connected ecosystems, that creates a single chokepoint to target with censorship demands; and (2) the ability to use hyped up claims about “fake news” to censor legitimate and critical investigative reporting. Neither of these are good to see, and both need to be counteracted.