June 21, 2024
  • Based on an order from China’s government, Apple has decided to remove WhatsApp and Threads from its China App Store
  • Other products of Meta will continue to function in the country and people with an iCloud account outside of China will still be able to download these apps
  • The reason behind the removal is still unknown but experts believe it to be a registration issue

Apple Removes WhatsApp and Threads From App Store In China

On Friday Apple announced that it’s removing WhatsApp and Threads from its App Store in China over security concerns from the government.

‘The Cyberspace Administration of China ordered the removal of these apps from the China storefront based on their national security concerns.’ – Apple

Adding further, Apple said it’s only doing its job and following the rules of the country it operates in, even if it disagrees with them.

Neither the Cyberspace Administration of China nor Meta has made any comments yet. In fact, all queries to Meta have been referred to Apple.

Other Meta apps such as Facebook and Instagram will remain available. Also, since WhatsApp and Threads will remain available on Apple’s app store elsewhere, people from China with iCloud accounts outside the country will still be able to download these apps.

Why Has China Ordered to Remove These Apps?

How exactly WhatsApp and Threads impose a threat to China’s security is not clear yet. However, there are certain speculations.

For example, some tech experts are of the opinion that it might have something to do with a new rule that was announced last August.

Under the new rule, all apps were required to be registered with China’s government or they would be banned. Any app that was found to be defunct or containing illegal content would also be banned.

The deadline for the registration was March 2024 and the rule came into effect on April 1. So ,China ordering the removal of these apps right after the new law came into effect might suggest that it’s a registration issue.

The ban could also be because of Meta’s dubious data privacy lapses, including an outright illegal data processing business. Check out my in-depth guide on why Threads is a privacy nightmare for more info on the matter. Additionally, Threads will also be shutting down in Turkey for more or less the same reasons come April 29.

Intentional or not, this move will only increase the ongoing tension between the two nations. There have been a series of events in the past that suggest the relationship between the two countries is becoming worse.

Now, the removal of WhatsApp and Threads will only add more fuel to the raging fire.

Not the First Time for Apple

This isn’t the first time that Apple complied with China’s demands and removed some apps. Back in 2017, it removed the New York Times app (at a period when news censorship was increasing in China) and to date, it remains unavailable.

Last year, a lot of AI-powered assistants were also removed from the App Store. Messaging apps like Signal and Telegram are also blocked in China.

It’s worth noting that China has always had strict laws when it came to what content and apps its people can access. So, this move isn’t all that surprising.

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