Apple removes Whatsapp and Threads from the App Store in China: are they just security reasons?

The Wall Street Journal in the last few hours there has been some news which, in some respects, leaves us disconcerted: Apple has removed WhatsApp and Threads from the Chinese version of the App Store by order of the Chinese government. The removal of the two popular apps of Half – the giant owned by Mark Zuckerberg – from such an important “place” as the App Store, moreover in the second most populous country in the world, is a fact that does not go unnoticed. The action was undertaken by the Cupertino company following an order received directly from the national authority Cyberspace Administration of China which, at least officially, would have acted because of national security concerns. The restriction not only affects the two Meta apps, but also other very popular apps, such as Telegram, Signal and Line. This is interpreted by some observers as a further restriction of freedom of expression by the Asian country.

The ban on the apps in question, to be malicious, could actually be read as one China's reaction to the disagreements fueled by the United States itselfwho recently ordered the blocking of TikTok within 6 months (also in this case due to alleged national security problems).

Because Apple removed WhatsApp and Threads even if they didn't agree

In a statement sent via email to the editorial team of ReutersApple said:

There Cyberspace Administration of China ordered the removal of these apps from the Chinese store based on national security concerns. We are obligated to follow the laws of the countries in which we operate, even when we disagree.

It is not the first time that the “bitten apple” has been forced to remove applications from the Chinese version of its store due to orders from the Beijing government. In 2017, for example, the disappearance of the app caused a stir New York Times from the Chinese App Store (for the record, the app in question is still unavailable in the store today).

In more recent times, last year the company directed by Tim Cook was forced to withdraw a series of apps that function similar to ChatGPT while waiting for China to complete work on local regulations regulating the use of generative artificial intelligence .

Even more recently, according to what emerged from some investigations conducted by monitoring companies Qimai And AppMagiceven messaging apps Telegram And Signal would have disappeared from the Chinese version of the Apple store.

For the moment it seems that the ban does not affect other popular apps developed by US companies, such as Facebook, Instagram And Messenger of the same Half, YouTube of the group Alphabet (of which he is also part Google), as well as X by Elon Musk.


What is the real reason why China ordered Apple to remove the apps

According to some reconstructions, the removal of WhatsApp, Threads, Telegram and Signal would have been due to one new Chinese regulation introduced in August 2023. According to this, all apps made available in Chinese territory should be included registered with the government. The deadline for software development companies to complete registrations was set for the end of March and evidently the aforementioned apps would not have made it.

However, considering the fact that almost all the apps in question are in fact direct competitors of WeChat (the messaging app developed by the Chinese company Tencent), the hypothesis that the Chinese government's new legislation did not have properly “pure” motivations may not be so absurd after all. If we add other details to this “picture”, such as the friction between USA and China attributable to various reasons – including the recent ones iPhone sales failures in Chinathe regaining new market shares by Chinese tech giants (such as Huawei and Xiaomi, just to mention a couple) and the aforementioned threat from the American government of ban TikTok in its territory — it is quite legitimate to ask what the true reality of the facts is.

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Reuters The Wall Street Journal