Apple removes WhatsApp and Threads from Chinese app store following government directive

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    20th April 2024 – (Beijing) Apple Inc. has withdrawn Meta Platforms’ WhatsApp and Threads from its App Store in China, complying with a directive from the Chinese government, which raised national security concerns over the applications. The action was confirmed through a statement issued by Apple and reported by Reuters.

    Despite the removal, other Meta applications such as Facebook, Instagram, and Messenger remain accessible in China, as verified on Friday. This selective restriction also leaves several other Western-developed applications, including YouTube and Twitter’s X, available for download.

    Apple articulated in their communication that the decision to remove the apps came as a direct order from the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC). “The Cyberspace Administration of China ordered the removal of these apps from the China storefront based on their national security concerns,” stated Apple in an emailed response. The American tech giant emphasized its policy of compliance with local laws, even when there are disagreements over such orders: “We are obligated to follow the laws in the countries where we operate, even when we disagree,” the company added.

    Meta Platforms, the parent company of WhatsApp and Threads, opted not to comment directly on the issue and redirected inquiries back to Apple. Attempts to reach the CAC for a statement have so far gone unanswered.

    While the specific reasons behind the security concerns have not been disclosed, industry experts speculate that the move could be linked to the recent regulations requiring all apps to register with the Chinese government. This requirement became enforceable from April 1, following a deadline at the end of March for companies to complete their registrations.

    The removal of apps is not unprecedented for Apple in China. In 2017, the company removed The New York Times app citing local regulations. More recently, in response to evolving local rules on generative AI, Apple withdrew several ChatGPT-like applications last year.