Great Fire, an activist group claims Apple’s alleged App Store censorship in Russia and Hong Kong attacks “fundamental rights” of its users worldwide, reports AppleInsider.
“The fundamental rights of millions are impacted when Apple does business with authoritarian regimes,” says the group in its announcement of the reports. Issued under the collective name of AppleCensorship, one report details apps such as VPNs that have been removed in Russia.
Here are some highlights from the report:
° “As human rights and fundamental freedoms in the territory shrink, including digital rights, Apple is reluctant to take any commitment to uphold its users rights to access information freely and express their views online.”
° “Patterns of app removals from Russia’s App Store detected by the App Store Monitor (ASM) suggest that specific groups of apps have been targeted by the Russian authorities and that a system of Apple-enforced targeted censorship is in place in Russia’s App Store.”
° “Although Russia’s App Store does not reflect the present government-controlled media landscape, the list of unavailable news apps continues to grow as the App Store Monitor unveils new foreign media blocked or removed from Russia’s App Store.”
° “Apple’s recent actions regarding several other apps operated by companies owned by Russian oligarchs who have been sanctioned, point towards contradictory behavior from Apple, and raise questions whether Apple’s opaque management of its App Store is compatible with the necessary scrutiny and respect for human rights principles and values that is required of private companies.”
° “Hong Kongers’ reliance on mobile apps that are banned in China to communicate and access information make Apple a defect “kill switch” at the disposal of the Chinese censors.
° While Hong Kong’s App Store remains relatively free compared to China’s App Store, a series of tests conducted in 2022 reveal that Hong Kong’s App Store is more restrictive than other App Stores considered “free”. The unavailability of apps in the Hong Kong App Store is higher than most of the 173 App Stores monitored by AppleCensorship.
° In November 2022, a surprisingly high number of VPN and private browsing apps (more than 50) were found to be unavailable in Hong Kong’s App Store.