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China Orders Apple To Remove WhatsApp And Threads From Its App Store

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An Apple logo hangs above the entrance to the Apple store on 5th Avenue in the Manhattan borough of New York City, July 21, 2015. —REUTERS/File Photo

(CTN News) – In response to a Chinese government order, Apple removed Meta Platforms’, WhatsApp’s, and Threads’ apps from the Chinese App Store.

Other foreign messaging apps, including Telegram and Signal, were also removed from the app store on Friday, according to app tracking companies Qimai and AppMagic.

China’s central government is growing intolerance towards foreign online messaging services that are outside its control, as evidenced by the removal of the four apps. It also indicates a reduction in Apple’s freedom in China. Meta apps such as Facebook, Instagram, and Messenger, however, remain available to download, according to Reuters checks on Friday. In addition to YouTube and X, Western companies developed many other popular apps.

Neither WhatsApp nor Threads were immediately clear as to how Chinese authorities might be concerned about their security.

In an email statement, Apple said that the Cyberspace Administration of China ordered these apps removed from the China storefront for national security reasons.

In the statement, it said that it was our responsibility to follow the laws in countries where it operates, regardless of whether it agrees with them.

Apple was referred to Meta for comments.

Signal and Telegram requests for comment were not answered by Apple. Responses to requests for comment from the two companies were not immediately forthcoming. A request for comment from the Cyberspace Administration of China was also not immediately responded to.

The four apps aren’t widely used in China, where Tencent’s WeChat is by far the most popular app. The “Great Firewall” – China’s extensive cybersystem of censorship – blocks these and many other apps on its networks, so they can only be accessed with a virtual private network.

Hong Kong and Macau, China’s two special administrative regions, remain the only places where the four apps are available.

According to some tech industry experts, the government order on WhatsApp and Threads may be connected to a new rule in China last August requiring all apps to register with the government or face removal. In order to comply with the regulations, companies had until March 31 to complete their registrations.

Apps have been removed from Apple’s China app store in the past.

During the world’s second-largest economy’s rise in news censorship, Apple removed The New York Times news app in 2017, saying it violated local regulations. Currently, it is not available on Apple’s China App Store. When Beijing was working on local regulations for generative artificial intelligence (AI) services, Apple pulled a number of ChatGPT-like apps.

It was first reported by The Wall Street Journal that WhatsApp and Threads had been removed from the China App Store.


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Alishba Waris is an independent journalist working for CTN News. She brings a wealth of experience and a keen eye for detail to her reporting. With a knack for uncovering the truth, Waris isn't afraid to ask tough questions and hold those in power accountable. Her writing is clear, concise, and cuts through the noise, delivering the facts readers need to stay informed. Waris's dedication to ethical journalism shines through in her hard-hitting yet fair coverage of important issues.

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