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.

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  1. icon
    Takumi (profile), 10 Jan 2017 @ 2:30pm

    How national laws should relate to the internet is such a tricky subject, honestly. You want to say (or rather, governments do) that everything done online should be subject to the offline laws of a citizen's nation, but when it comes to things like geoblocking, region-specific censorship, GEMA obscuring every other youtube video in Germany with the excuse of "copyright!", threats to hold liable domain registrars and ISPs because they don't perform enough censorship, weird claims that a US embargo with Iran means you can't let them have source code of free software (???), just any time a government wants to take the internet and strangle it to prevent the ungodly horror of information flowing through it they don't particularly like because they don't know what else to do it's just like, we're living in the future now, I thought we were beyond this primitive stage of humanity. There has to be a better way.

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