China Orders Apple To Remove WhatsApp From App Store

Bloomberg has reported that the Chinese Cyberspace Administration has ordered Apple to remove WhatsApp and Threads from the App Store, citing national security concerns.

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In response to national security concerns, the Chinese Cyberspace Administration has requested Apple to remove Meta Platforms’ WhatsApp and Threads from its Chinese App Store. This action also affected Signal and Telegram, both foreign messaging apps. Concurrently, efforts in Washington, DC, to restrict TikTok on US devices are underway.

“We are obligated to follow the laws in the countries where we operate, even when we disagree. The Cyberspace Administration of China ordered the removal of these apps from the China storefront based on their national security concerns,” Apple said in a statement, as quoted by Bloomberg. 

Apple continued, “These apps remain available for download on all other storefronts where they appear.”

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These four messaging apps employ virtual private networks to avoid China’s Great Firewall. Beijing is concerned that citizens would be exposed to disinformation and false content (produced by foreign foes) that may cause social unrest or discontent with the communist system.

According to Bloomberg, the orders to delete the four apps follow a previous “cleanup program Chinese regulators initiated in 2023 that was expected to remove many defunct or unregistered apps from domestic iOS and Android stores, including local ones. In August, China asked all mobile app developers to register with the government by the end of March, or cease operating.” 

Rich Bishop, co-founder and CEO of AppInChina, voiced concern that Chinese consumers would now be limited to native apps, with only a few international options. He cautioned that Beijing’s move will further isolate Chinese citizens from the rest of the world.

The withdrawals come as Apple is attempting to strike a careful balance between cooperating with China’s censorship-industrial complex and maintaining iPhone market dominance in the world’s biggest mobile market.

Last year, Apple dominated China’s smartphone market, accounting for more than 17%. However, Huawei is now attacking the US brand with new phone lineups, which might shift the balance.

Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, US politicians are actively pursuing legislation that would require Beijing-based ByteDance to sell TikTok or face a statewide ban on app stores. This move highlights the ongoing technology rivalry between the United States and China.

Speaker Mike Johnson intends to include the TikTok divestiture legislation in an aid package for Ukraine and Israel, which will be voted on as early as Saturday.

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