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Apple Removes WhatsApp, Threads from China App Store

By News   Desk

In a move reflecting the tight controls over the internet in China, Apple has removed the Meta-owned messaging apps WhatsApp and Threads from its App Store in the country following an order from the nation's top internet regulator.

Bloomberg reported on Friday that Apple confirmed the removals, stating, "We are obligated to follow the laws in the countries where we operate, even when we disagree."

The tech giant said the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) had ordered the apps to be pulled "based on their national security concerns," while clarifying the apps remain available elsewhere.

China engages in extensive censorship of the internet, with major foreign platforms like Google, Facebook, Twitter and many others blocked within mainland China unless users employ virtual private networks (VPNs).

While Apple did not provide further details, the CAC's order appears to fall in line with Beijing's restrictions on foreign social media and communication apps over which it lacks control and monitoring capabilities.

China is a crucial market for Apple, with the iPhone maker recently topping smartphone sales in the country for the first time last year. However, Apple's operations have long been complicated by tensions over censorship demands and national security concerns raised by Chinese authorities.

Just months ago, China claimed to have cracked Apple's encrypted AirDrop service previously used by Hong Kong protesters to share information, allowing officials to identify users' phone numbers and email accounts.

The block on WhatsApp and Threads will greatly inhibit new iPhone users in China from accessing the popular apps, which were previously downloadable before using VPNs to bypass restrictions.

The development comes amid intensifying U.S. scrutiny of Chinese apps like TikTok, which faces a potential ban or divestment order over national security worries that Beijing could access American user data - claims TikTok denies.

Beijing has frequently lashed out at such U.S. restrictions on Chinese tech firms, accusing Washington of using security as a pretext to contain China's economic and technological rise.