Hong Kong Science & Technology

Apple automatically self-censors its news app in China

Apple’s News app is not available on mainland China mobile networks and is being deliberately blocked by Apple itself, tech entrepreneur Larry Salibra has revealed.

After conducting tests around the Lok Ma Chau-Futian border, Salibra found that when his Hong Kong mobile network switched to China Mobile’s Mainland network (CMCC), the Apple News App would “refuse to refresh or open any of the articles already displayed on the screen, showing the message ‘News isn’t supported in your current region’.”

apple news app not available in china

Apple’s News app as displayed on a China mobile network. Photo: Larry Salibra.

In addition, Salibra found that, unlike other apps, the News App also refused to work when using a VPN service which facilitates uncensored roaming internet. This suggests Apple is not immobilising the app via location tracking or geofencing, but is doing so based on the mobile network connection.

Similarly, the standard Apple Maps is disabled in China, where it is automatically replaced with China-approved maps provided by the Chinese company Autonavi.

China requires all map information to be licensed from Chinese based and government approved sources – all outside companies are prohibited from creating their own navigational maps.

apple maps

The new Apple iOS9 Maps. Photo: Apple.

Apple’s efforts to create its own mapping software has led to a different set of maps for its new mobile operating system built specifically for China, which some have ironically said are better than Apple Maps outside of China.

Instead of censoring content article by article, or blurring out sensitive areas on the Apple Maps, Apple disables the News app and Apple Maps based on the location of the user.

Apple News app not work in China

Apple’s News app is unavailable on mainland China mobile networks. Photo: HKFP.

“The News app and Apple Maps uses the location of the user to change the behaviour of their device without their permission, even if the location service is disabled in the privacy settings,” Salibra writes.

Similarly, when Apple Music launched in China along with iBooks and iTunes Movies it was also no surprise that the 24-hour live radio station, Beats 1, was missing.

Apple, for whom China is their second-largest market after the US, may wish to avoid the fate of Google, whose services are blocked in the mainland.

china apple phone year on year

Tim Cook introducing Apple’s year-on-year smartphone growth in China for 2015. Photo: Apple.

Apple’s aggregator-style News app was launched by Apple earlier this year in June. While it has only been launched in the United States, users can use it in other countries by setting their iPhone’s region to the United States.

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Apple automatically self-censors its news app in China