As early as 2018, when Apple's original programming production got underway, company executives reportedly gave guidance to some show creators to "avoid portraying China in a bad light."
According to the news outlet's sources, the instruction was given by Apple software and services VP Eddy Cue, as well Morgan Wandell, Apple's head of international content development.
The attempt to steer content creators away from perceived criticism of China is said to be part of Apple's efforts to stay in its good books and avoid a repeat of April 2016, when the Chinese State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television shut down the iTunes Movies and iBooks stores, just six months after they had launched in the country.
The store closures were linked to the release of a controversial movie banned in China that imagines Hong Kong in 2025 with language police, mini Red Guards, radical protest and social alienation rife.
One show maker not connected to Apple told BuzzFeed News that the company's appeasement of Beijing is nothing new in the U.S. movie industry, which China has heavily invested in.
Apple's tip toeing around the Chinese government isn't unusual in Hollywood. It's an accepted practice."They all do it," one showrunner who was not affiliated with Apple told BuzzFeed News. "They have to if they want to play in that market. And they all want to play in that market. Who wouldn't?"BuzzFeed News also spoke to one app developer who said that getting a phone call from Apple about an issue with China is not uncommon. "It's not a line of communication that would be open to any discussion," said the U.S. technology executive. "They have so much market power in general and they wield that pretty indiscriminately."
Apple CEO Tim Cook told employees on Thursday that the decision to remove the HKmap Live app from the App Store was based on information the company had received that it was being used to target individuals, property, and police, and violated local laws.
Earlier the same day, Apple also removed the app of news outlet Quartz from China's App Store. The news organization said Apple removed its mobile app after complaints from the Chinese government about content in the app that is illegal in China."
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