On Friday, Apple announced a new human rights policy committed to “freedom of information and expression” after years of criticism of the company’s willingness to comply with China’s censorship laws.
As first reported by Financial Times on friday, Apple’s four-page policy document commits to “respecting the human rights of everyone we touch – including our employees, suppliers, contractors and customers.” But it does not cite any particular country, such as China, where the company has been asked to ban apps that allow users to bypass censorship in the past. According to Apple̵
Apple says it will continue to follow censorship laws in countries where they exist. “We work every day to make quality products, including content and services, available to our users in a way that respects their human rights,” Apple wrote in the document. “We are required to comply with local laws, and at times there are complex issues that we may disagree with governments and other stakeholders on the right path forward.”
Apple’s willingness to bow to censorship rules in China may stem from its significant Chinese customer and production base. Almost all critical production takes place in the country. The company has previously revealed that it removed apps from the App Store in China after the Beijing government demanded it. In a letter to Congress in 2017, Apple revealed that they removed 674 VPN apps from the App Store in China. These apps are often used to avoid censorship in countries like China. In 2019, Apple removed an app called HKmap.live, a people-based map app used by Hong Kong residents to mark police locations. And in August 2020, Apple removed thousands of games from its Chinese App Store.