Apple Says It Was Ordered to Pull WhatsApp From China App Store

Apple said it removed Meta-owned WhatsApp and Threads apps from its China app store on government orders on Friday, potentially escalating the tech war between the United States and China.

The iPhone maker said China’s internet regulator, the Cyberspace Administration, had ordered the removal of WhatsApp and Threads from its app store due to national security concerns. Apple said it was complying because “we are obligated to respect the laws of the countries in which we operate, even when we disagree.”

A Meta spokesperson directed requests for comment to Apple. The Wall Street Journal previously reported Apple’s removal of the apps.

A person briefed on the situation said the Chinese government found inflammatory content on WhatsApp and Threads about Chinese President Xi Jinping that violated the country’s cybersecurity laws. Details of the content were unclear, the person said.

Several other global messaging apps were also removed from Apple’s China App Store on Friday, including U.S.-based Signal and Dubai-based Telegram, according to Appfigures, a market research firm that analyzes the digital market. economy. Signal did not immediately provide comment and Telegram did not respond to a request for comment.

These actions have plunged Apple and Meta into an increasingly intense technology struggle between the United States and China. In the United States, the House of Representatives was preparing to vote this weekend on a bill that would force Chinese Internet company ByteDance to sell its popular video application TikTok or have it banned in the United States. US lawmakers have said TikTok poses a national security threat because of its ties to China. Chinese authorities have condemned efforts to force the sale of TikTok.

The White House has also recently worked to restrict Beijing’s access to advanced technologies that could be used in war, as well as expanding restrictions on U.S. dollars used to fund the development of such technologies domestically. Chinese. Beijing responded by banning memory chips from U.S. maker Micron and limiting sales of other U.S. chip companies.

China has long blocked U.S. websites, including Facebook and Instagram, using an elaborate system called the Great Firewall. Even though WhatsApp, one of the world’s most popular messaging services, and Threads, an X-type app for digital conversations, were allowed in app stores, they were not widely used in China. The apps were overshadowed by Chinese apps such as WeChat, which is owned by Chinese internet company Tencent.

Nonetheless, Chinese users were able to download WhatsApp and use it with the help of a virtual private network, or VPN, used to establish secure web connections and view content banned in China.

WhatsApp has been downloaded 15 million times on iPhones in China since 2017, while Threads has been downloaded 470,000 times, according to Appfigures.

Apple is more vulnerable than most companies to growing tensions between the United States and China. It became one of the world’s most valuable state-owned companies by tapping China’s vast workforce and manufacturing might to make its iPhones, then selling the devices to the country’s growing middle class. China now accounts for about a fifth of Apple’s annual sales, more than $68 billion last year.

For years, Apple has given in to Beijing’s demands to block a range of apps, including newspapers, VPNs and encrypted messaging services. It also built a data center in the country to house Chinese citizens’ iCloud information, including their personal contacts, photos and emails.

As relations between the United States and China deteriorated, Apple began to diversify its supply chain and began assembling iPhones, AirPods and Apple Watches in India and Vietnam.

Tim Cook, Apple’s chief executive, traveled to Asia this week, where he visited suppliers in Vietnam and spoke with Indonesia’s president about building a manufacturing plant there -down.

For Meta, the consequences will likely be less direct, given that many of its apps have already been banned in China. Yet Meta makes money from Chinese companies like Temu and Shein, which pay to place advertising on Instagram and Facebook.

Meta and Apple have long had a rocky corporate relationship. Apple has introduced tighter restrictions on the types of tracking companies can do on its devices, significantly limiting Meta’s ability to gain insights into user behavior for its digital advertising business. Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Meta, has publicly denounced what he considers Apple’s overly restrictive privacy guidelines.

In the United States, measures against TikTok have gained momentum in recent days, with House Speaker Mike Johnson introducing a measure to force ByteDance to sell the app along with other projects law on foreign aid to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan.

House lawmakers are expected to vote on the legislative package Saturday. If the package passes, the measures would be sent as a single bill to the Senate, which could be voted on soon after. President Biden said he would sign the TikTok legislation if it reaches his desk.

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Sara Adm

Aimant les mots, Sara Smith a commencé à écrire dès son plus jeune âge. En tant qu'éditeur en chef de son journal scolaire, il met en valeur ses compétences en racontant des récits impactants. Smith a ensuite étudié le journalisme à l'université Columbia, où il est diplômé en tête de sa classe. Après avoir étudié au New York Times, Sara décroche un poste de journaliste de nouvelles. Depuis dix ans, il a couvert des événements majeurs tels que les élections présidentielles et les catastrophes naturelles. Il a été acclamé pour sa capacité à créer des récits captivants qui capturent l'expérience humaine.
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