Apple draws criticism after pulling Chinese anti-censorship app

in General Discussion edited January 2014
Apple has been criticized by the developer of a Chinese app designed to bypass China's Internet censorship protocols after the company removed the title from the App Store in China because its functionality is illegal in that country.

Open Door was sold in the Chinese App Store until July of this year, when Apple pulled the program, saying that it contained content that was illegal within China. The app saw roughly 2,000 daily downloads in China, according to the Daily Mail, and it is still available in the App Stores of other countries, including the U.S. App Store.

Open Door "protects users' privacy and anonymity online," according to its developers. It was a browser app that circumvented China's "great firewall," and its developers say that any information accessed through the app would be accessed at the user's own discretion.

Subverting China?s state censorship firewall is trivial for users to do via either a proxy server or using a Virtual Private Network. The developer?s Open Door app packaged this bypass functionality in a free app with advertising, and sold In App Purchases to remove the advertising.

The app's developers say that they received no notification from Apple of the app's removal. Upon contacting Apple, they were told that developers must abide by the laws of the countries in which their apps are sold. They say that they will not challenge Open Door's removal, claiming fears that the app could come under scrutiny and face removal in other countries.

"Unfortunately," one developer told CNN, "we're not aware of any app developer ever [who was successful] in challenging Apple's decision. In fact, we won't be surprised if Apple decides to pull our app from all App Stores and/or terminates our account in retaliation."

After the app's removal, Apple came under fire from Chinese social media users, who accused Apple of kowtowing to the demands of China's government.

"The fruit is contaminated," one user wrote on Chinese microblogging site Sina Weibo. "Where is your integrity!" wrote another.

Apple has previously pulled apps from the Chinese App Store in order to come into alignment with laws in that country. In April, Apple pulled a book-selling app that gave users access to government-banned titles. That move came shortly after Apple CEO Tim Cook apologized to Chinese customers following a string of government-boosted anti-Apple stories.

Apple executives have continually acknowledged the importance of the Chinese market for the company's future. China surpassed the United States as the world's largest market for mobile devices earlier this year, and Apple's devices enjoy considerable popularity in the world's most populous nation. In order to better court Chinese consumers, many of which have incomes too low to afford Apple's products, the iPhone maker has introduced new pricing and payment strategies in order to make sure its devices get into their hands.


  • Reply 1 of 99
    jragostajragosta Posts: 10,473member
    Apple has come under criticism for its recent decision to take down a Chinese app that allowed users to bypass China's Internet censorship protocols.

    And if they didn't take it down, people would complain that Apple was helping people to break the law.

    The app is illegal in China. Apple had every right to take it down.
  • Reply 2 of 99
    Apple will follow that country's laws. That is all there is to it. Yay for Apple.

    If you want to bypass China's censors, then get TOR. Dummy.
  • Reply 3 of 99
    darklitedarklite Posts: 229member

    What else are Apple supposed to do? China's laws may be utterly appalling, but if you want to do business there you have to abide by them.

  • Reply 4 of 99
    akqiesakqies Posts: 768member
    It's good to see a company abiding by the laws of a nation, even if I disagree with those laws. Perhaps Samsung could take a few pointers.
  • Reply 5 of 99
    apple ][apple ][ Posts: 9,233member

    I support the authoritarian communists in this instance.


    The main thing that matters is Apple selling more devices in China, and censorship is how things are done over there, so censor away.

  • Reply 6 of 99
    enzosenzos Posts: 344member

    While I sympathise with the activists' point of view, it's not wise for a guest to take sides in a domestic dispute. 


    Mention of Samsung makes me shudder. Brings back an old Aussie commination:


    'May your chooks turn into emus,

    And peck your dunny down.

    Peck your dunny down.

    Really go to town.

    I hope your chooks turn into emus.

    Yes, I do, I really do.

    And when they've pecked your dunny down,

    I hope they peck on you.'

  • Reply 7 of 99
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 10,557member

    Originally Posted by DarkLite View Post


    What else are Apple supposed to do? China's laws may be utterly appalling, but if you want to do business there you have to abide by them.


    Didn't Google pull out of China for this reason?

  • Reply 8 of 99

    Ya wanna make money in China, you've gotta take it in the ass from Xi Jinping. Shouldn't hurt too much. 

  • Reply 9 of 99
    freerangefreerange Posts: 1,597member
    This is a non-issue. As an expat living in China, it is easy to get around the Great Chinese Firewall. Even high school kids know how to do it as do all the foreigners living here - either VPNs or proxies are easy to come by for anyone interested in getting around the censors. What is more frustrating here is how slow the internet is, especially when crossing the firewall back to the west, even for sites that are not blocked and awhen not using VPN.
  • Reply 10 of 99
    droidftwdroidftw Posts: 1,009member
    Originally Posted by lkrupp View Post



    Didn't Google pull out of China for this reason?


    A few years ago Google redirected Chinese users to their Hong Kong Google search which wasn't censored and allowed people to search terms like "tiananmen square" and it royally pissed off the Chinese government.  The Chinese gov't blocked Google and Google caved.  They went back to allowing China to censor search results but Google put a message up to the user saying that the results had been censored.  That message was dropped early this year.

  • Reply 11 of 99

    Does anyone else see the PORTAL logo?


  • Reply 12 of 99
    Big deal. I know lots of folks in China who get by and get past the censors with any old VPN. You don't need some fancy app for that.

    If you do business abroad there is only one of two choices: obey the local law, or get out.
  • Reply 13 of 99

    Well,  Apple needs to have a good relationship with the Chinese government if they want to sell iDevices there.  Facilitating communication that is forbidden by the government would not be helpful to the relationship.


    Its OK to take heat for abiding by the law.  They don't have to agree with the law but they should respect China law and abide by it when they are in China.

  • Reply 14 of 99
    virtuavirtua Posts: 209member
    Bit of a non story ....and funny the developer is reported as not understanding why Apple had to remove it...duh
  • Reply 15 of 99
    taniwhataniwha Posts: 347member

    Originally Posted by Apple ][ View Post


    I support the authoritarian communists in this instance.


    The main thing that matters is Apple selling more devices in China, and censorship is how things are done over there, so censor away.

    Yeah right. Anything for a buck is ok. Good thinking. Wanna buy some crack ?

  • Reply 16 of 99
    jkichlinejkichline Posts: 1,369member
    Pretty straightforward. You break the law, the app comes down. It's in the developer agreement. Just be glad you're not getting sued morons.
  • Reply 17 of 99
    Originally Posted by Taniwha View Post

    Yeah right. Anything for a buck is ok.


    No, but following the law for the purpose of selling a product is. Would you prefer child porn apps in the US? Age of consent is 12 in some places, after all.

  • Reply 18 of 99
    palegolaspalegolas Posts: 1,361member
    jragosta wrote: »
    The app is illegal in China. Apple had every right to take it down.
    Exactly. Apple is a commercial company, not a democracy organisation. Of course they need to comply with the laws of the markets they're operating in. And, nowadays it's very easy, and safe to jailbreak your iPhone for this functionality. I still think China should loosen up its internet laws, and I'm sure everyone at Apple thinks that too, but that's not Apple's battle to fight.
  • Reply 19 of 99
    Talk about being stuck in the classic "between a rock and a hard place" scenario. "Damned if you do, damned if you don't" also works here.

    If they want to do business in China without all the constant negative press that we saw plenty of earlier this year (leading to the apology from TC), they'll have to kowtow to the Chinese Government. Period.

    They can't carry the banner for "the resistance". It is neither their place nor their mandate.

    Apple can, however, continue to supply them with these devices (that are both a phone AND an internet communication device capable of bypassing the censors), and given the right tools, users can continue without Apple's "blessing"%u2026

    e.g. If you downloaded that same app off a regular website, all you'd have to do to install it to your phone without using the App Store, is drag and drop it onto iTunes. Done! The next time you sync, it'll be on your phone.

    Being on the App Store does legitimize developers (and protects users a bit more), but in circumstances like these, well, sometimes a bit more discretion is advised...
  • Reply 20 of 99
    y2any2an Posts: 179member
    Comply with local laws or face company extinction; it's non-negotiable. The indignancy from the developers is disingenuous as they know very well what their product is.
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