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Apple formalizes freedom of expression obligations following investor pressure over China’s censorship



Apple has issued a formal statement outlining its commitment to human rights and freedom of expression. Apple says it believes in “the critical importance of an open society” and “the best way we can continue to promote transparency is to remain committed, even where we may disagree with a country’s laws”.

A group of investors had expressed concern about how much Apple complies with China’s censorship requirements, such as removing VPN apps from the App Store or moving citizens’ iCloud data to Chinese-controlled data centers. However, Apple’s new statement does not really mean that it will change how it works. The company says it will follow local laws as it has always done, which means it must continue to lock iPhones and other Apple devices in China until Chinese laws change.

The stock group, called SumOfUs, has repeatedly submitted proposals to the annual Apple investor meeting to force Apple to double down on freedom of expression obligations. The proposals have so far not received enough support from eligible Apple shareholders.

The group said they were pleased that Apple had issued this human rights policy on its own. However, they are still fighting for Apple to release reports on how it handles institutions that restrict freedom of expression, similar to environmental and vendor responsibility reports that Apple launches annually. It plans to bring this to a shareholder vote at the Apple 2021

investor meeting, which is normally held in February.

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