Apple has removed The New York Times’ apps from the App Store in China in response to a request from Chinese authorities, The New York Times reports. Both the English and Chinese language apps were removed from the App Store in China on Dec. 23, with Apple being told by Chinese officials that the app “is in violation of local regulations.” The move seems to affect only The New York Times’ apps, as other international publications such as The Financial Times and The Wall Street Journal remain available in the Chinese App Store. The Chinese government began blocking The Times’ websites in 2012 following a series of articles on then-prime minister Wen Jiabao, although the government is said to have been struggling in recent months to prevent readers from using the Chinese-language app.
An Apple spokesperson declined to provide any details such as what local regulations were cited, when Apple was contacted and by whom, and whether any legal proceedings were involved, although the New York Times report speculates that the request appears to have been made under a new set of regulations released last June called Provisions on the Administration of Mobile Internet Application Information Services, which prohibit apps that “engage in activities prohibited by laws and regulations such as endangering national security, disrupting social order and violating the legitimate rights and interests of others” and that apps cannot publish “prohibited” information. The Cyberspace Administration of China, which is the country’s main Internet regulator, did not respond to faxed inquiries from The New York Times. The Times bureau in Beijing also noted that it has not been contacted by the Chinese government concerning the matter at all, which appears to be between the Chinese government and Apple at this point. The Times has asked Apple to reconsider its decision, according to a Times spokesperson in New York.
This is not the first time Apple has removed media apps from its Chinese App Store, although this recent action is the most prominent news app to have been removed. While Apple CEO Tim Cook has stated in the past that Apple complies with all local laws, it’s unclear exactly what process is followed in evaluating requests from Beijing to remove apps, and whether Apple resists such requests in any way. Notably, the Times’ news apps remain available in Apple’s App Stores in Hong Kong and Taiwan, although users must have a credit card with a billing address outside of mainland China to download apps from those stores. The Times’ crossword puzzle and VR apps also remain available throughout China.