China’s Great Firewall has seemingly burnt another service, with Apple apparently opting to disable Apple News in the country rather than figure out a complex censorship system. The news-reading app was launched as part of iOS 9, pulling in articles from multiple sources into one, easy-to-consume place.
However, it’s that surfeit of sources that have apparently fallen foul of Chinese censorship demands. According to the New York Times, Apple – faced with demands from the government to filter articles – has taken the more straightforward route and simply disabled Apple News there altogether.
Those trying to access the service on a network in China are faced with an error message, the newspaper reports. “Can’t refresh right now,” readers are warned. “News isn’t supported in your current region.”
Although Apple has declined to comment on the situation, what’s believed to be happening is a wholesale blocking of the app rather than the expensive, time-consuming, and undoubtedly controversial process of building a censorship team.
China puts the onus for handling filtering onto companies themselves, which would presumably require either a human group, automated censorship, or some combination of the two, to sift through what articles were offered and remove anything that falls counter to Chinese laws.
Instead of taking on that challenge – and possibly allowing something contentious to slip through the net, facing governmental wrath in the process – Apple’s strategy, for the moment at least, appears to be the easier, blanket solution of cutting off Apple News entirely.
Nonetheless, the decision hasn’t been fallout-free. Articles that have been cached while outside of China are automatically removed when the device later synchronizes through a Chinese network, traveling entrepreneur Larry Salibra discovered.
His testing suggests Apple uses the wireless network the iOS device is connected to in order to make the decision whether to freeze out Apple News or not.