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30 Jul 2017

Farhad Manjoo, New York Times

Apple’s Silence in China Sets a Dangerous Precedent

…Apple pulled down several VPN apps — programs that allow iPhone users to bypass the Chinese government’s censorship apparatus — from its Chinese App Store…Apple’s only public statement on the VPN ban said that the company had been “required to remove some VPN apps in China that do not meet the new regulations,” but noted that the “apps remain available in all other markets where they do business.” …

 “Apple’s response is tremendously disappointing,” said Eva Galperin, director of cybersecurity at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital-rights advocacy group. “I think it’s possible that Apple is playing a bigger role behind the scenes here. But the problem with that is, from the outside it looks exactly like doing nothing.”…

…While American tech companies frequently criticize decisions by American officials, they appear loath to do so in China…Amazon also began banning VPN services from the Chinese version of its cloud-computing platform, called AWS. Facebook, has been exploring ways of getting into the Chinese government’s good graces. Google pulled many of its services out of the Chinese market in 2010, blaming censorship, but it has lately been mulling ways to get back.

…Despite the VPN ban, Chinese internet users might still be better off with Apple in China than with it outside. Its app store still provides people access to millions of apps that they might not find elsewhere in China. And Apple’s own communications apps in China remain free of government censorship…

…Xiao Qiang, a Chinese human rights activist… at the University of California…sees the latest crackdowns as the beginning of a new wave of internet censorship in China…“[Apple] should say something,” he said. “They are a U.S. company, after all…So if they have to do things differently in China, they should have some public explanation for why…”