Apple firewall app-ban does the bidding of China’s authoritarian rulers

Apple, which built its reputation on selling products that it claims lets its customers to "think different," once again is doing the bidding of China's authoritarian rulers, pulling an app from the App Store because it allows people to evade China's infamous Great Firewall. When will Apple's fans recognize that the company cares about profits first, and freedom last?

The BBC reports that Apple pulled the OpenDoor app from the App store. The app allows people to evade firewalls, primarily those erected by authoritarian governments. The BBC says that Zhou Shuguang, a prominent Chinese blogger and citizen journalist, says that the software has been used by Chinese Internet users to get around the government's restrictive Great Firewall.

The BBC also quotes a Chinese Internet user as saying:

"Apple is determined to have a share of the huge cake which is the Chinese internet market. Without strict self-censorship, it cannot enter the Chinese market."

The developers of OpenDoor told Radio Netherlands that of the app's 800,000 total downloads before it was pulled, about a third were from China. It is also used in other countries that restrict Internet access, including Iran and Pakistan.

The developers said that until the app was banned, approximately 2,000 Chinese users a day were downloading it. Apple pulled the app and then didn't tell the developers, the developers claim. They add that when they contacted Apple asking why the app was banned, at first Apple didn't respond. Eventually, they say, Apple told them that their app "includes content that is illegal in China."

Apple didn't say what the content is. That's because the app has no "content." It's merely a way to allow people to bypass firewalls such as those in place in China, Iran, and Pakistan. A Chinese Internet expert, who wished to remain anonymous, told Radio Netherlands that with this latest action, "the censorship of Apple has reached a whole new level."

Apple has a long history of kowtowing to Chinese censors. In 2010, the New York Times reported:

Apple's iTunes service still forbids Chinese users from downloading certain applications that refer to the Dalai Lama and the Uighur activist Rebiya Kadeer.

Banning apps that refer to the Dalai Lama are particularly ironic, given that in Apple's famous "Think Different" campaign extolling rebels and freethinkers, Apple used a photo of the Dalai Lama to hype its products -- you can see the ad, below. In those days, though, there wasn't much money to be made in China. Today there is. So goodbye Dalai Lama. 


Apple has also banned a number of apps from its China app store, including a news app by a U.S. television broadcaster founded by members of Falun Gong, a religion that China has declared a "heretical organization," and an app that lets people read banned books about Tibet by Wang Lixiong.

There's no doubt that Apple makes very nice products. But it's an amoral company, chasing profits above all else, despite the image that many of its fans have about it. Just this week, Apple passed Coca Cola to become the world's most valuable brand. If more people knew the truth about the company's actions, maybe the Apple name wouldn't be worth quite so much.


Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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