GreatFire publishes report on Apple and app censorship in China

GreatFire has published a report on Apple and app censorship in China

GreatFire’s, in collaboration with ARTICLE 19 ASIA, has published a report into the complex landscape of app censorship in China, including the broader human rights implications, and what policymakers can do to address these Big Tech harms. 

Key findings from the report:

  • Among the 100 most downloaded apps worldwide, only four are also among the most downloaded in China’s App Store, all of which are Chinese.
  • 66 out of the 108 most downloaded apps worldwide (61%) were found unavailable to Chinese iOS users. This number has recently increased.
  • In contrast, only 8 apps (7%) were unavailable in the U.S. App Store.
  • Categories such as Games, Utilities, Education, Entertainment, and Lifestyle are proportionally represented in the list of unavailable apps in China, aligning with their prevalence in the App Store. However, News, Books, and Social Networking categories are disproportionately unavailable, suggesting targeted censorship.
  • Sensitive categories like VPNs, Privacy & Digital Security, LGBTQ+ & Dating, News & Information, Social Media & Communication, Tibet & Buddhism, Uyghur, and Religion apps are particularly affected by censorship in China.

Adding to the report’s urgency, recent actions by Apple have intensified the conversation about digital freedom and censorship. As of April 19, 2024, the tech giant has removed widely-used apps such as WhatsApp and Instagram from its China App Store, citing national security concerns in line with the Chinese government’s stringent regulations. 

GreatFire — a site that monitors and challenges Internet censorship — says this move illustrates an increasing trend of digital isolation for Chinese iOS users and creating even more barriers for foreign journalists and other members of civil society who used to access these apps via a VPN.

Dennis Sellers
the authorDennis Sellers
Dennis Sellers is the editor/publisher of Apple World Today. He’s been an “Apple journalist” since 1995 (starting with the first big Apple news site, MacCentral). He loves to read, run, play sports, and watch movies.