Apple has prevented users from accessing its Apple News app while on the mainland in a move designed to appease Chinese censors.
The Apple News app, announced by the company last June, is currently only available to users in the US, although there are plans to roll it out to several other markets. Users who have already downloaded the app can still see news when they travel abroad, with the exception of one country: China.
Those who try to check their news feed, normally populated with a curated list of articles tailored to the user’s preferences, instead see an error message: “Can’t refresh right now, News isn’t supported in your current region.”
Tech entrepreneur Larry Salibra pointed out the issue in a blog post a few days ago, stating how in Hong Kong just connecting to a mobile signal from the mainland was enough to disable the app’s functionality. He also noted how Beats 1, the live radio station accompanying Apple Music, was also inaccessible without a VPN.
Continuing the discussion on Reddit, Larry said that he found what Apple was doing extremely questionable: “They’re censoring news content that I downloaded and stored on my device purchased in the USA, before I even enter China just because my phone happens to connect to a Chinese signal floating over the border.”
“On device censorship is much different than having your server blocked by the Great Firewall or not enabling a feature for customers with certain country iTunes account,” he wrote. “That Apple has little choice doesn’t make it any less creepy or outrageous.”
With Apple’s sales in China now outstripping those back in their home market of the US, the company has little incentive to bite the hand which feeds and rock the boat in the Chinese market.
“It bothers me not because Apple does it, but because they have no option to do it and it is only going to get worse – just like Hollywood’s censorship of movies so that Beijing will accept them,” Larry concluded.