WhatsApp and Threads app

iPhone users in China no longer have access to some of the most popular messaging and social media apps.

Apple was ordered by the Chinese government on Friday to remove Meta’s messaging app WhatsApp and its social media platform Threads from the official App Store in China. Along with Meta’s apps, Apple was also forced to remove the Signal and Telegram messaging apps from the App Store, too.

“We are obligated to follow the laws in the countries where we operate, even when we disagree,” an Apple spokesperson said in a statement provided to the Wall Street Journal.

China’s internet censorship continues

Generally, moves made by the Chinese government to control what can be accessed online in the country aren’t too surprising. However, the timing of this recent ban targeting Meta’s apps is interesting. The U.S. government is currently taking steps to ban the popular social video app TikTok, which has ties to China through its Chinese-based parent company Bytedance.

The Chinese government has typically moved to curtail the distribution of messaging platforms, like these four apps, specifically. Apps like Telegram, Signal, WhatsApp, and Threads have been used to organize protests and social movements against the government in the past. Unlike on China-based social media platforms, the government also can’t control the spread of stories critical of the Chinese government and its officials on platforms like Threads or Telegram.

China is the second largest market for Apple and the iPhone, so the effects of these bans is rather large. However, many Chinese citizens are accustomed to these types of actions from the government and are well-versed in getting around them through the use of VPNs and other workarounds.

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