China Effect: Is Apple Censoring Content?

Now that Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) has caved in to pressure from the Chinese government, the iPhone maker may decide to enforce a censoring policy there as well.

China’s state-run media outlets, China Central Television and People’s Daily, ran a campaign over the last few weeks, claiming that Apple had discriminatory customer service policies in China, followed up by claims that Apple was arrogant for not responding to the accusations.

Eventually, Apple CEO Tim Cook issued an apology on the company’s Chinese website. It also changed its warranty policies for Chinese to assuage complaints. China’s response to Apple’s moves was favorable, showing that the government believed the company had taken the right action.

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But, now Apple will have to constantly stay on its toes to stay in China’s good graces — if the company can even be said to be that well regarded by the government. The latest example of Apple working to follow the rules in China came soon after the company’s last tangle; Apple has removed a particular bookstore app, as the Financial Times reported.

The app in question — jingdian shucheng — only contained 10 books, but 3 of those books were by Wang Lixiong, whose works are widely banned in China. Hao Peiqiang, the developer of the app, told the FT that his app had been “operating normally for the last two months.” However, He received a letter from Apple’s “App Review” Thursday that informed him that his app will be removed as it “includes content that is illegal in China.” While Peiqiang said that friends told him Apple’s censorship policy has been held “in place for the last two years,” he remains uncertain if the Apple’s recent trouble is related to the removal of his app…

Wang Lixiong is a political activist in China, and his books are related to his negative experiences, Tibet, and beliefs about the future of the country. He claimed that he had not requested that the app be taken down for using his intellectual property and said, “… I believe the decision to take down [the app] must be because of political reasons.”

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So, it now appears that Apple may be playing by the rules of the Chinese government — rules which left Yahoo! (NASDAQ:YHOO) and Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) at odds with the country. It’s uncertainty how consumers may react if they believe Apple is engaging in censorship in China.

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