Apple News, one of the iPhone maker’s new iOS 9 apps, has reportedly had its plug pulled in China. This coming from iPhone users there that say they receive an error message when trying to access the news feed.
The buzz started when American software developer Larry Salibra tweeted about his failure to use the app while in Guangzhou, China, in the southern part of the country, after he got the message: “Can’t refresh right now. News isn’t supported in your current region.”
A source said to have direct knowledge of the situation spoke with the New York Times and confirmed that Apple has indeed stopped service for the app in China.
The Apple News app was announced in June and is current available only to users in the U.S. However, for customers who already downloaded the app through the U.S. iTunes store can still see content anywhere in the world — except now in China.
The decision to disable Apple News is reported to have been done so voluntarily rather than going up against China’s battle-hardened online censorship regime that has stood toe to toe -and won- with the likes of Google, Facebook and Snapchat.
For Apple, this is another example of the troubles it and other companies face doing business in China —the single-largest cellphone market in the world.
Apple News turns off when you roam into Mainland China. Disturbing. Not cool. pic.twitter.com/CYLUWGHE2H
— Larry Salibra (@larrysalibra) October 2, 2015
“What make[s] me uncomfortable is them enforcing rules of other countries on my device, which I didn’t buy in that country, even when I’ve turned off location services,” Salibra wrote. “It bothers me not because Apple does it but because they have no option but to do it, and it is only going to get worse.”
Fighting for free speech worth $13 billion?
Apple has yet to say anything about the situation with the Apple News app in China, but one can hardly blame them for not wanting to fight over the issue in a country that accounted for a whopping $13 billion in third quarter sales.
The policy in Beijing generally insists that companies themselves are responsible for censoring content inside China. Chinese companies have developed systems that combine the use of automated software and a network of employees ‘policing’ content that might upset the government.
It would seem that Apple has decided the best route for the company, at least for the moment, is to just pull the plug on the news delivery app all together.