Apple applied list of terms censored in China to Taiwan & Hong Kong

Posted:
in General Discussion edited August 2021
Apple has reportedly exported a list of censored words and terms meant for engraving requests in mainland China to regions like Hong Kong and Taiwan, according to a new investigation.

Credit: Andrew O'Hara, AppleInsider
Credit: Andrew O'Hara, AppleInsider


The investigation, published by Citizen Lab Wednesday, focused on a word list meant to stop specific terms from being engraved on Apple products. There are 1,105 censored keywords, but Citizen Lab believes that they are applied "inconsistently" across six regions.

Most of the censored words apply to mainland China, since Beijing places the burden of censorship on private companies. In China, Apple censors almost as many political terms as its does explicit sexual content or vulgarity -- the type censored across most other regions.

In China, about 43% of all censored keywords -- about 458 -- refer to the country's political system, the ruling Communist Party, senior Party or government officials, and dissidents. According to Citizen Lab, 174 of those keywords apply in Hong Kong, and 29 apply in Taiwan.

For example, a traditional Chinese phrase that translates to "freedom of the press" is censored both in mainland China and Hong Kong.

Citizen Lab claims that Apple's public censorship documents fail to "explain how it determines the keyword lists." The nonprofit suggests that Apple "may have exceeded" legal censorship obligations in mainland China and in Hong Kong, where censorship is not required by local laws or regulations.

According to the organization, Apple appears to have "thoughtlessly reappropriated" some censored keywords from Chinese sources.

In a letter to Citizen Lab, Apple privacy chief Jane Horvath said that the Cupertino tech giant doesn't allow engraving requests that "would be considered illegal according to local laws, rules, and regulations of the countries and regions."

Horvath added that Apple handles engravings in each region separately. She said there's no global list of contains a single set of words, phrases, or terms. Instead, she said the decisions are made "through a review process where our teams assess local laws as well as their assessment of cultural sensitivities."

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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 195
    JWSCJWSC Posts: 1,148member
    One wonders how far Apple will go down this path until they finally say No.  What’s the threshold?
    rcfa
  • Reply 2 of 195
    rcfarcfa Posts: 1,124member
    JWSC said:
    One wonders how far Apple will go down this path until they finally say No.  What’s the threshold?
    The threshold would only be, if the US passed a law prohibiting Apple censoring. That would force Apple to exit certain markets with conflicting laws.

    Nor likely happening given Apple‘s lobbying power.

    Otherwise: nothing will stop „Apple complying with local laws“ as long as the market means billions in sales.
  • Reply 3 of 195
    xyzzy01xyzzy01 Posts: 102member
    Why would these apply to Taiwan?

    While China would love to remove democracy from them, it's still an independent island - and after how China has been going on in Hong Kong, they're obviously not going to tempt Taiwan into trying "one country, two systems" as China pretended to allow earlier.

    viclauyycharrywinter
  • Reply 4 of 195
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 9,988member
    JWSC said:
    One wonders how far Apple will go down this path until they finally say No.  What’s the threshold?
    And if Congress mandates a backdoor Apple will also comply. This is how an international corporation lives in the world.
    ArchStantonGeorgeBMac
  • Reply 5 of 195
    DAalsethDAalseth Posts: 1,988member
    Hong Kong I can understand. It IS part of China. Taiwan though…that’s tougher to justify.
  • Reply 6 of 195
    But but CCP said China has freedom of press. 
    harrywintercornchip
  • Reply 7 of 195
    JWSCJWSC Posts: 1,148member
    DAalseth said:
    Hong Kong I can understand. It IS part of China. Taiwan though…that’s tougher to justify.
    Right.  But we know China’s stance on a Taiwan - it’s considered part and parcel of greater Chinese territory.  Since Nixon pulled the US embassy out of Taiwan, the US has not officially recognized Taiwan as a separate nation from that of mainland China.  Apple can use that as cover.  Still pretty shitty though.
  • Reply 8 of 195
    JWSCJWSC Posts: 1,148member
    lkrupp said:
    JWSC said:
    One wonders how far Apple will go down this path until they finally say No.  What’s the threshold?
    And if Congress mandates a backdoor Apple will also comply. This is how an international corporation lives in the world.
    Well, I suppose they would, even though they may hate every aspect of it.

    What would be more interesting is how Apple might adapt iOS to limit the potential damage a back door might cause to privacy.  Offloading the data storage of sensitive PII to certain trusted third parties might be one answer.  Apple could then claim that they are complying with the law but that their hands are tied when it comes to third parties, which might be offshore and not subject to US law.
  • Reply 9 of 195
    flydogflydog Posts: 1,093member
    JWSC said:
    One wonders how far Apple will go down this path until they finally say No.  What’s the threshold?
    Apple is a private company. If it was to prohibit people from engraving the name "Joe," then it can do that.  Just like you can dictate the rules within your own home. 

    What would be unconstitutional is if a law were passed that required Apple to engrave certain messages. 
    GeorgeBMac
  • Reply 10 of 195
    mknelsonmknelson Posts: 894member
    flydog said:

    What would be unconstitutional is if a law were passed that required Apple to engrave certain messages. 
    Funny enough, there is… "Assembled in China" 


    harrywintercornchip
  • Reply 11 of 195
    entropysentropys Posts: 3,386member
    Just as well these words aren’t in some hashlist.
  • Reply 12 of 195
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 23,363member
    flydog said:
    JWSC said:
    One wonders how far Apple will go down this path until they finally say No.  What’s the threshold?
    Apple is a private company. If it was to prohibit people from engraving the name "Joe," then it can do that.  Just like you can dictate the rules within your own home. 

    What would be unconstitutional is if a law were passed that required Apple to engrave certain messages. 
    "Unconstitutional" never entered the discussion. 
  • Reply 13 of 195
    22july201322july2013 Posts: 2,905member
    flydog said:
    JWSC said:
    One wonders how far Apple will go down this path until they finally say No.  What’s the threshold?
    Apple is a private company. If it was to prohibit people from engraving the name "Joe," then it can do that.  Just like you can dictate the rules within your own home. 

    What would be unconstitutional is if a law were passed that required Apple to engrave certain messages. 
    Which constitution are you referring to? The US or Chinese one? I'm not arguing with you, I'm just asking for clarification. And can you please cite the clause (in whichever one you are referring to) that says contract law can't force someone or some company to label a product that one of them made? Even in the US I think contracts can require companies to label their products. Doesn't Intel do it to American companies?
  • Reply 14 of 195
    … but they would never let a government bully them into adding more ‘search filters’ into the CSAM mechanism. Let’s all go for a ride on the slippery slope of privacy erosion.
  • Reply 15 of 195
    China the country and government mandates what happens in China. They will be offended by certain things, full stop. 
    United States the country and government mandates what happens in the United States, They will be offended by certain things, full stop.
    Those from one place feeling outrage because those in the other places don't do it like your place need to stop substituting feelings and what they see on TV for actual thought, full stop.
    Those who think other countries do bad things and believe bad things, but mine doesn't do any of that need to take their heads out of the clouds and read a book, full stop.
    People that think a company should only sell products in places that are like the place you live in lack an ability to see outside their confirmation bias, extra full stop. 

    Apple "fan" sites are becoming less and less Apple tech talk and more like the supermarket checkout aisle magazines. Can't wait for the eventual headline -- Report: Tim Cook Impregnates Alien so iOS Can Conquer The Galaxy
    GeorgeBMaccornchip
  • Reply 16 of 195
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 11,421member
    xyzzy01 said:
    Why would these apply to Taiwan?

    While China would love to remove democracy from them, it's still an independent island - and after how China has been going on in Hong Kong, they're obviously not going to tempt Taiwan into trying "one country, two systems" as China pretended to allow earlier.


    That's bullshit.
    Taiwan is an automous region, not an independent nation.
    China would be happy to leave it as an autonomous region -- unless the west forces its hand with its standard 'freedom and democracy" line that it used to justify the invasion of Iraq.  Then it will end that just as it did in Hong Kong when the west incited separatist insurrection on that island.
    edited August 2021 cornchip
  • Reply 17 of 195
    dewmedewme Posts: 4,176member
    Do we want Apple, a technology company, to intervene in internal disputes in foreign countries? Considering the US as a whole is zero-for-can’t count ‘em all in this regard I don’t see it ending well - ever, as we’ve been reminded again this week. 
    GeorgeBMaclarryjw
  • Reply 18 of 195
    ronnronn Posts: 504member
    xyzzy01 said:
    Why would these apply to Taiwan?

    While China would love to remove democracy from them, it's still an independent island - and after how China has been going on in Hong Kong, they're obviously not going to tempt Taiwan into trying "one country, two systems" as China pretended to allow earlier.


    That's bullshit.
    Taiwan is an automous region, not an independent nation.
    China would be happy to leave it as an autonomous region -- unless the west forces its hand with its standard 'freedom and democracy" line that it used to justify the invasion of Iraq.  Then it will end that just as it did in Hong Kong when the west incited separatist insurrection on that island.
    "Automous region" is some ultimate bullshit. Taiwan controls its currency, armed forces and holds independent, fair, democratic elections. Just because the communist regime bullies others to not "officially" recognize Taiwan doesn't make them some "automous region," renegade province, or any other such nonsense.
    harrywintercornchipchadbag
  • Reply 19 of 195
    This is probably a bug tbh.
    Unfortunately, Apple catering to the Chinese market has caused a lot of "bugs" in recent years. including mixing up the code bases for which countries and cities are blocked from seeing the Taiwan's Flag 🇹🇼.
  • Reply 20 of 195
    ronn said:
    xyzzy01 said:
    Why would these apply to Taiwan?

    While China would love to remove democracy from them, it's still an independent island - and after how China has been going on in Hong Kong, they're obviously not going to tempt Taiwan into trying "one country, two systems" as China pretended to allow earlier.


    That's bullshit.
    Taiwan is an automous region, not an independent nation.
    China would be happy to leave it as an autonomous region -- unless the west forces its hand with its standard 'freedom and democracy" line that it used to justify the invasion of Iraq.  Then it will end that just as it did in Hong Kong when the west incited separatist insurrection on that island.
    "Automous region" is some ultimate bullshit. Taiwan controls its currency, armed forces and holds independent, fair, democratic elections. Just because the communist regime bullies others to not "officially" recognize Taiwan doesn't make them some "automous region," renegade province, or any other such nonsense.
    Taiwan is trying to make a history of its own. Will historian around the world recognize Taiwan? 
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