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Apple publishes human rights policy following criticism of censorship in China

"Apple commits to freedom of speech after criticism of China censorship," 4 September 2020

Apple has for the first time published a human rights policy that commits to respecting “freedom of information and expression”, following years of criticism that it bows to demands from Beijing and carries out censorship in mainland China, Tibet, Xinjiang and Hong Kong. Apple’s board of directors approved the policy and quietly published it ahead of a deadline of September 5 for shareholders to submit motions for next year’s investor meeting. The four-page document... tries to walk a fine line between upholding human rights while conceding that Apple is “required to comply with local laws” in authoritarian countries.

The document said Apple is “committed to respecting the human rights of everyone whose lives we touch — including our employees, suppliers, contractors and customers”. Its approach is based on the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

But it does not mention any particular country, nor does it refer to high-profile dilemmas like what to do when China, the world’s largest smartphone market, asks it to ban apps that help users evade censorship and surveillance.

... The iPhone maker’s commitment comes seven months after two-fifths of its shareholders defied management and supported a SumOfUs proposal that would have compelled it to uphold freedom of expression globally. Apple had tried to strike the proposal from the agenda but was denied by the US Securities and Exchange Commission.