Apple blocks app used by Hong Kong protestors

Meanwhile Apple tolerates Waze in the US app store. Feels to me like there’s two standards here. One for the US and Apple’s media image, and an entirely different standard for dealing with authoritarian dictatorships. Ironically, the virtue Apple likes to talk about would be most needed in the case of the latter. :frowning:

The happy ending, however, is also provided by the above article:

If there is any good news, it’s that the HKmap Live service is also available on the Web so it isn’t reliant on a iPhone app and Apple users in Hong Kong will still be able to access the service for as long as it stays live.

This action by Apple to take sides in a political dispute and come down on the side of the oppressors is why I am in full support of the plaintiffs in the monopoly class action suit filled against Apple and it App Store.

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I have been reading quite a bit about the protests in Hong Kong, and the articles I’ve read have stressed how important “off the grid” communications are to the protesters and organizers. About a month ago ago I began reading about how Bridgefy quickly surpassed FireChat, and how important Apple’s App Store has been for both of these apps:

These messaging services are still available on the App Store and are the major, and very effective, communications vehicles that are heavily used by protestors.

The Register does not have a good reputation for journalism, and is especially known for its unceasing hostility to Apple. It makes Farhad Manjoo look like the Apple Fan Club president in comparison. And there is a big flaw in this particular story…Apple never “pulled” HK Map Live off the App Store because it was never accepted by, or appeared in, the App Store.

Here’s a tweet from the Founder of HK Map: “Clarification!!! We are never on the App Store, they rejected it during the review process. The process is resumed after recent appeal!”

HK Map is undergoing Apple’s appeals process and will hopefully work out an equitable solution. In the meantime, other publications that were initially critical of the App Store in this regard have revised their coverage; here are some examples:

According to the Bloomberg article:

"Re-reviewing app decisions is a common practice. According to Apple’s website, the company rejects 40% of the 100,000 apps considered each week. It has what is known as an App Review Board to evaluate rejections. As part of its latest review of, Apple likely is researching if the software violates local laws. Apple typically examines such laws before making approval or rejection decisions on third-party apps.

The developer has received no update from Apple since the new review process began. The developer did get one other message from Apple recently: “Your app is still in review but is requiring additional time. We will provide further status updates as soon as we are able. Thank you for your continued patience.”

I just checked The Register to see if there were any corrections or updates to their story, which was posted almost 24 hours ago. There are none.

Now that Apple has approved it, would you like to argue the opposite side?

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Here’s some news that checks out with multiple reputable sources about Adobe suspending accounts in Venezuela to comply with a US government order. I haven’t found any details about Apple services or products being suspended or blocked yet.

Although a lot of coverage has been given to the Adobe suspension in some major news outlets over the past 24+ hours, nothing about it has appeared in The Register yet:

So yesterday the Communist Party of China’s “newspaper” People’s Daily had this to say:

“Providing a gateway for “toxic apps” is hurting the feelings of the Chinese people, twisting the facts of Hong Kong affairs, and against the views and principles of the Chinese people.”

And since obviously the Communist Party of China knows what “all Chinese people” think and feel (and obviously all Chinese people have identical thoughts and feelings), we realize this must be the absolute and ultimate truth.

Now if you thought Tim Cook then reminded China that Apple has gone on the record many times as committed to basic human rights and therefore holds those principles higher than a possible momentary dip in stock price, you are sadly mistaken. No, they actually turned around and right away canned the app. Good to know Apple’s principles hold water until they are told to revise their views by one of the most vicious dictatorships still left on this planet.

This is how Apple tried to justify their caving to the dictatorship’s demands:

“We created the App Store to be a safe and trusted place to discover apps. We have learned that an app,, has been used in ways that endanger law enforcement and residents in Hong Kong. Many concerned customers in Hong Kong have contacted us about this app and we immediately began investigating it. The app displays police locations and we have verified with the Hong Kong Cybersecurity and Technology Crime Bureau that the app has been used to target and ambush police, threaten public safety, and criminals have used it to victimize residents in areas where they know there is no law enforcement. This app violates our guidelines and local laws, and we have removed it from the App Store .”

So they are essentially saying “the dictators told us this app was bad and used for illegal stuff so we’re going to take their word for it”. After all, Apple is just sticking to “local laws”, right? Good thing there was no App Store yet in Germany around the time of the Reichskristallnacht. Imagine what local laws would have told them to do there.

I hope the people of Hong Kong remember this when they buy their next phone, tablet, or computer. Obviously, the only thing that really counts is who Apple expects to sell more kit to. But quite obviously this is rather shortsighted. The Communist Party of China once again got its way so they now know they can play Apple when they want. I expect them to make more use of that in the near future. Where will Apple draw the line? Will there be a line?

The NBA only days ago tried to teach the Communist Party of China a different lesson. It would be nice if more western companies and consumers realized we have real power and that we can put that power to use for actual good. I’m confident many less fortunate people would be mighty grateful when they one day realize we had their backs while they were in the struggle to shake off their oppressors, just as we did a long time ago.

I bet my girlfriend this morning that Apple would fold and it took less than four hours; brilliant cow towing Mr Cook!!!

Ben Thompson has a well-considered post on this at Stratechery.

That’s an excellent article, Adam. Thank you.

I especially liked the part where it illustrates how the Communist Party of China attempts to export their radical redefinition of “free speech”.

We believe that any speech that challenges national sovereignty and social stability is not within the scope of freedom of speech,” CCTV said in its statement in Chinese, which was translated by CNBC.

The rest of the world should stand firm in letting China know that they will not get to redefine freedom of speech in any such way. They might be able to impose it on their own people through propaganda and terror (for as long as that works), but the free peoples of this world know very well to recognize the difference between the real thing and China’s transparent attempts at newspeak. Something that, by the way, George Orwell invented in 1948. As a free man in a free society. Something the Communist Party of China to this day still has not accomplished.

There are several excellent points being made in that article.

On Apple:

Sticking one’s corporate head in the sand, praying that President Trump will not be re-elected and that everything will go back to normal, is deeply irresponsible both to shareholders and to the values Apple claims motivates them.

On what we in the US can and should be doing:

… the current skepticism around all Chinese investment in the United States should be continued if not increased. Attempts by China to leverage market access into self-censorship by U.S. companies should also be treated as trade violations that are subject to retaliation. Make no mistake, what happened to the NBA this weekend is nothing new: similar pressure has befallen multiple U.S. companies, often about content that is outside of China’s borders (Taiwan and Hong Kong, for example, being listed in drop-down menus for hotels or airlines).

Sorry, but this last post sounds a lot like “Dewey Beats Truman.” Google also yanked HKMap Live off of their store.

In my not so humble opinion, after over four decades of working with national and international publishing companies, I have found it to be worthwhile to check various reputable sources about controversial items before shooting my mouth off. In the cyber era, it’s a lot easier to do this, especially since sources like the WSJ, NYT, Reuters, WaPo, etc. are more scrupulous about fact checking, updating, and where necessary, issuing retractions. “Rumor” sites are focused on rumors, and although it was true that Apple pulled HKLive, Their coverage didn’t reflect the whole story, and they haven’t revised it or published one about Google.

Interestingly, The Register has not printed anything about these new developments yet.

Whether Google or any other company is engaging in the same or similar behavior isn’t the point, though. Apple is free to act in any way that it wants with regard to China and Hong Kong regardless of what any other company does.

Gruber has been writing a lot about this over at Daring Fireball, including this rebuttal to Tim Cook’s letter to employees.

As of today, I have the app installed on my iPhone and it works beautifully. I installed it a couple of weeks ago. Very useful if you want to go shopping without teargas!

What could Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., Sen. Maro Rubio, R-Fla., Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wisc., and Rep. Tom Malinowski, D-N.J possibly have in common?