Apple gives in to China’s demands to pull New York Times app

5 Jan 2017

New York Times app. Image: ymgerman/Shutterstock

The Chinese government has won its latest battle in the war against The New York Times, with news that Apple has agreed to remove the app from its China App Store as it is “in violation of local regulations”.

As Apple continues to rapidly expand its operations in China, the corporate giant has, on a number of occasions in 2016, given in to the will of the country’s government surrounding demands made on its citizens’ data.

The company has shown itself to be willing to bow to pressure again, with regard to China’s tough internet censorship stance against websites and online services that the government deems unacceptable.

Years of grievances

According to the The New York Times, its mobile apps – in both English and Mandarin – on iOS were hastily removed by Apple from the App Store on 23 December.

China’s issues with the news organisation stem from a series of articles that appeared in 2012 about the former prime minister Wen Jiabao and the wealth his family had accumulated during the time he was in office.

In response to what it saw as wrongful criticism of its government, the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) ruled that no The New York Times online content could be made available in China, joining a list of websites that include YouTube, Facebook and Google.

A spokesperson for the organisation has said the news came as a shock to its bureau in Beijing, and that the CAC would not respond to any questions from it.

Apple responds

Meanwhile, the The New York Times contacted Apple to seek an answer as to what exact reason was behind it deciding to agree to China’s demands to pull the app.

In response, an Apple spokesperson, Fred Sainz, said: “For some time now, the New York Times app has not been permitted to display content to most users in China and we have been informed that the app is in violation of local regulations.

“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.”

While it remains unknown as to what exact piece of legislation was behind this decision, it has been suggested it is linked to one passed in June of last year.

Under the ruling, China has said that no app could “engage in activities prohibited by laws and regulations such as endangering national security, disrupting social order and violating the legitimate rights and interests of others”.

The paper has added that in the weeks prior to 23 December, it had been working on a number of articles critical of the Chinese government, including one alleging that billions of dollars’ worth of subsidies are illegally given to Apple’s biggest iPhone manufacturer in China, Foxconn.

New York Times app. Image: ymgerman/Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic