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Apple accused of surrendering to Russia and China for a fast buck

by on22 December 2022

Human rights groups slam fruity cargo cult 

Human rights groups have accused the fruity cargo cult Apple of selling the lives of their users in authoritarian regimes such as Russia and China to make profits.

Two reports, one about Apple's antics in Hong Kong and the other about activities in Russia waterboard company's reputation. 

The reports, "Apps at Risk: Apple's Censorship and Compromises in Hong Kong" and "United Apple: Apple's Censorship and Compromises in Russia," were released by the Apple Censorship Project, which is run by free speech advocacy group GreatFire.

Greatfire campaign and advocacy director Benjamin Ismail dubbed Apple's self-proclaimed support for LGBTQ+ Rights as a particular piece of rubbish.

"Apple’s temporary withdrawal from Russia following the start of the war in Ukraine, and Apple’s decision to move part of its production out of China, have not provided tangible evidence of any improvement of the situation in the App Store so far. For all we know, Apple is still willing to collaborate with repressive regimes."

The Apps at Risk report contends that Apple's 50 percent share of the smartphone market makes it the Chinese Communist Party's de facto kill switch for politically challenging content.

It notes that the Hong Kong App Store in November 2022 was missing 2,370 apps available elsewhere. In China's App Store, 10,837 apps are missing and in Russia's App Store, that figure is 2,754.

Many VPN apps have vanished from the Hong Kong App Store, the report says. And over the past two years, it's claimed, many media and information apps have been removed globally, raising the possibility that Apple is engaged in worldwide self-censorship or is doing so on behalf of authorities.

Apple has failed to offer support for the right of people in Hong Kong to access information without restriction and to express themselves online, even as the Chinese government has suppressed the democracy movement in Hong Kong, the report said.

"Apple's known about Beijing’s authoritarian preferences for decades. Apple’s response to the events in Hong Kong the last few years are not knee-jerk reactions. Apple’s response is aligned to its global business strategies, with a top priority of appeasing the Chinese government to protect Apple’s supply chain, distribution channels, and revenue stream."

The situation in Russia is similar in that from 2018 until 2022, Apple has appeared to comply more readily with censorship requests from the Kremlin.

"If Apple’s compliance with requests for censorship is best illustrated by cases of app removals from the iOS App Store. Russia’s innovative and extensive oppression has also led to censorship within software (LGBTQ+ watch faces), accessories (LGBTQ+ watch bands), software-based cartography (Crimea), protocols (Private Relay), and even the design of iOS (Russian iOS)."

The Russia report, citing Apple's removal of LGBTQ+ apps in furtherance of state-backed homophobia, calls out "the insincerity of Apple’s self-proclaimed support for LGBTQ+ Rights."

The Human Rights group said that there were signs that Apple was always ready to deals with regimes to maintain its access to the market, to build and to sell its products. Apple's Private Relay never made it to China and was canceled in Russia.

The Tame Apple Press has done its best to white wash the report saying that other companies have had to cut similar deals. But GreatFire said that Google and Twitter, he said, do much better in terms of transparency. Apple has a bad habit of lying in its transparency reports and deliberately conceals the scale of app's unavailability and the reality of the 175 App Stores it operates worldwide.

"It might be time for Apple to consider the possibility that it does more harm by being present in China than by not being there," said Ismail. "In its Human Rights Policy, Apple claims 'Our approach is based on the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights,' yet every principle set in that UN document is the exact opposite of Apple's policy."


Last modified on 22 December 2022
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