New in OS X: Get MacRumors Push Notifications on your Mac

Resubscribe Now Close

Apple Pulls VPN Apps From China App Store As Russia Signs Law Banning Their Use

Russia has banned VPNs and other software that enables users to gain anonymous access to websites. The new law was signed by President Vladimir Putin on Monday and will come into effect on November 1st (via TechCrunch).

Leonid Levin, chairman of the Duma's committee on information policy and technology, was quoted by state-run media as saying that the new law is not targeted at "introducing new bans for law-abiding citizens" but aims to prohibit access to illegal content.

However, privacy advocates see the law as another way for the Russian government to restrict access to political content that it disagrees with. In 2015, it became mandatory for all user data from Russian citizens to be stored in Russian-based servers, and last year another law was passed making it necessary for internet service providers to retain traffic data for up to a year.

Recently the government also threatened to block access to the Telegram encrypted messaging platform unless the company that runs the app provides more information about itself.

Elsewhere, virtual private networks took another blow over the weekend, as reports emerged that Apple has removed the majority of VPN apps from the App Store in China, following regulations passed earlier in the year that require such apps to be authorized by the Chinese government.

The action was first revealed by ExpressVPN, a provider based outside of China. The company said in a blog post that "all major VPN apps" including its own had been removed from the App Store.
"We're disappointed in this development, as it represents the most drastic measure the Chinese government has taken to block the use of VPNs to date, and we are troubled to see Apple aiding China's censorship efforts. ExpressVPN strongly condemns these measures, which threaten free speech and civil liberties," ExpressVPN wrote on its blog.
The company shared a note from Apple explaining that its app was removed because "it includes content that is illegal in China". A few hours later, Apple issued a statement to TechCrunch explaining its decision to pull the apps from the App Store:
Earlier this year China’s MIIT announced that all developers offering VPNs must obtain a license from the government. We have been required to remove some VPN apps in China that do not meet the new regulations. These apps remain available in all other markets where they do business.
Earlier this month, China reportedly started blocking some features of the WhatsApp messaging service, as authorities continued to tighten controls over the country's internet.

Update: During Apple's third quarter earnings call, Apple CEO Tim Cook said that Apple pulled VPN apps in China due to China's renewed effort to enforce the policy that prohibits them.

"We would rather not remove apps, but like we do in other countries, we follow the law where we do business." Cook went on to say that he hopes China will ease up on the restrictions over time."

Note: Due to the political nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Politics, Religion, Social Issues forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.

Tags: China, Russia, VPN


Top Rated Comments

(View all)

18 months ago
Those things are only important to Tim until they affect the bottom line. He's had no problems dealing with dictatorships, countries that trample civil rights and rap stars who have abused women.

“Diversity” and “free expression” are only preached by Apple unless it’s NIMBY and the consumers keep coming, huh, Tim? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Rating: 38 Votes
18 months ago
“Diversity” and “free expression” are only preached by Apple unless it’s NIMBY and the consumers keep coming, huh, Tim? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Rating: 19 Votes
18 months ago

Those things are only important to Tim until they affect the bottom line. He's had no problems dealing with dictatorships, countries that trample civil rights and rap stars who have abused women.


First uninformed comment of many,

It doesn’t matter if Tim removes them from the AppStore or not, the IP's will be blocked.

So, if Tim left the apps on the AppStore, Chinese costumers would have a lot of apps they simply cannot use in any way, even if they they (Apple) pay or not. In other words, you’ll be downloading a scam app.

But don’t mind me, keep hating, and buy an Android.
Rating: 18 Votes
18 months ago
We shouldn't even have open trade relations with them in the first place. The Chinese government has starkly different moral values from us, including many human rights violations which we somehow manage to ignore. I really don't get it.
Rating: 14 Votes
18 months ago
BREAKING NEWS... two days ago.
[doublepost=1501503615][/doublepost]

Sorry, what is exactly the connection with "restrict access to political content that it disagrees with"? What political content is only available by VPN?


anything the government decides to otherwise block? incendiary videos on facebook or youtube or the like.
Rating: 9 Votes
18 months ago

“Diversity” and “free expression” are only preached by Apple unless it’s NIMBY and the consumers keep coming, huh, Tim? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯


And what, pray tell, would you have Apple do? Tell China no? That may work in the US (for now at least) and other western countries where the leaders are constrained by the courts and rule of law, but in China they have no such option. If Apple doesn't remove the offending content, then the App Store in China goes dark, as well as Apple's ability to sell iPhones and other wares in China. Apple has no leverage over the Chinese government. There are plenty of alternatives for Chinese customers to buy in China, and I guarantee you Chinese citizens aren't going to try and topple their government just because they can't get an iPhone. Its unfortunate that Apple, or any company, is in this position, but thats the way the world is.

Apple DOES do a lot of privacy, speech, underrepresented groups. They have also pushed the envelope on improving treatment for factory workers in China. But they aren't all-powerful. Tim Cook can't tell President Ji Xingping what to do.

Educate yourself on the topic at hand and understand that this is a messy, complicated, and difficult situation.

"But what about Google, they walked away!"

Yes, and Apple COULD do that, and you can make an argument they should, but its not a slam dunk either way. What does walking away do? It doesn't change China. It doesn't push them towards a more open government. It just means someone else, either Samsung, or one of the many Chinese companies is selling more phones. And Google didn't actually walk away, they tried redirecting traffic to their Hong Kong site, which was partially successful for awhile, now its mostly blocked. But Google still has offices in China for R&D as well as Android sales, so they didn't bail either. Also, Google search was never big in China to begin with, Baidu is way more popular, so "pulling out" cost them very little.
Rating: 8 Votes
18 months ago

Sorry, what is exactly the connection with "restrict access to political content that it disagrees with"? What political content is only available by VPN?

Foreign news sites, foreign NGOs, foreign social media, particularly the ones with content in Chinese or English. In general, anything that is critical of the Chinese government. What do you think the Great Firewall has been blocking all along?
Rating: 7 Votes
18 months ago
I never thought I would say something negative regarding Apple, but here it comes. Apple was one of the strongest advocating freedom of speech and human rights, but with this move, its really clear Apple does not care much about human rights or freedom of speech. They care about freedom to sell their products to everybody on the planet. So giving up essential rights seems like a minor bump in the road.

Tim has for a while displayed himself as a knight high up on a white horse, fighting off government demands right and left, defending the impregnable iProducts, shaking fists towards three letter agencies. Now Tim resembles a lanky teenager sitting on a miniature pony, scared to death by all the bullies around him.

Taking this in consideration, it does not surprise me anyore that they are going from TouchID to facial recognition, letting the big bullies force the iDevice users to look at their screens, unlocking all the darkest secrets, a feast for said three letter agencies.

Ride Tim, ride!
Rating: 6 Votes
18 months ago
So the tyrant's and non democratic states are starting to do this. How long till the 5 eye's members will be saying they need this too, "for security"?

Sad, Apple has to go along with this, but it goes to show you can't depend on publicly traded for profit companies to protect you're privacy (although Apple will seemingly do more than any other computer company) - its your government that has to do that - once you loose your government at your back its only a matter of time, as they control the rules of the table the company has to play in.

Sorry, what is exactly the connection with "restrict access to political content that it disagrees with"? What political content is only available by VPN?


From what I understand, virtually any mainstream news site outside the country - you could guess social media would get mixed in there as well.
Rating: 5 Votes
18 months ago

Let me give a recent example, and one reason I think the chinese government doing this isn't all that crazy. there's a ****ton of people out here, and that means you get plenty more hysterical idiots than is usual. a couple of weeks back there was a guy with a knife who attacked some people in a walmart, i believe he had mental health issues, and if i remember right 3 or 4 people died. however, my wife saw all sorts of stories coming through on wechat or weibo, and the first thing she told me was that 20 people had been killed. by a single guy with a knife. i'm not in any way saying this event wasn't horrible, but what's even worse is idiots who can't be trusted not to spread fake news and create mass panic. in this case, the censors were onto it fairly quickly, removing the - pardon the expression - chinese whispers. there's two sides to everything; now imagine these stories were on facebook or something the government couldn't control, and how quickly things might escalate?

I'm not a Chinese national. I come from a much smaller but relatively powerful country; the demographics of China and especially the top tier cities are such that honestly, until you've experienced living here then you really can't compare it to the US or other countries. What if the next set of fake news suggested Trump had bombed China? How would America feel about 1 and a half billion angry Chinese people raining down on them?



Hey... I lived in China for 16 years and I know in and out how Chinese people live.. my wife is from China and we keep close communication with Chinese family and friend.

I think in one hand Chinese government trying to protect social orders and truly harmful content from its citizen and I think it is good. On other hand, Chinese government does its way to slience its citizen in a way they cut off outside information. It goes two ways. Finding balance is the hardest part.

Though Chinese citizen like me and my wife has enjoyed China's economic success. Both my family and my wife's family life hagr been dramatically improved over decades or two decades ago. This is more important for most Chinese citizen.

Be honest, Chinese citizen human right has been dramatically improved from past decades. People are able to express themselves though controlled environment and Chinese government has been very careful these days. Gone are old days prior get death sentence without proper trials.

Really, China got ride of its emperor 100 years ago and after several decades of war and chaos, change and ideologies cannot change that fast. It took how many years fot Black people have right to vote? It took how many years for women to vote?
Rating: 4 Votes

[ Read All Comments ]