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Apple confirms it is disabling its News App in China

China Apple News ban

It was discovered by Larry Salibra and others that Apple has been disabling its Apple News Service in China. Perhaps most troubling is how Apple is doing this:

They’re censoring news content that I downloaded and stored on my device purchased in the USA, before I even enter China just because my phone happens to connect to a Chinese signal floating over the border. On device censorship is much different than having your server blocked by the Great Firewall or not enabling a feature for customers with certain country iTunes account. That Apple has little choice doesn’t make it any less creepy or outrageous.

The New York Times reports that Apple confirmed, off the record, that it is indeed turning off Apple News in Mainland China.

Apple has disabled its news app in China, according to a person with direct knowledge of the situation, the most recent sign of how difficult it can be for foreign companies to manage the strict rules governing media and online expression there. Customers who already downloaded the app by registering their phones in the United States can still see content in it when they travel overseas — but they have found that it does not work in China. Those in China who look at the top of the Apple News feed, which would normally display a list of selected articles based on a user’s preferred media, instead see an error message: “Can’t refresh right now. News isn’t supported in your current region.”

China is Apple’s most promising market but unfortunately it is controlled by a government that wields total control over information and the media. Simply removing the news App might be better than upsetting Beijing.  Google famously ran afoul of the Chinese government in 2010 after sustaining a state-sponsored hacking attack on its Windows computers and was effectively kicked out of the country. Only in the past few months have attempts been made to mend the bridges.  Apple certainly doesn’t want to hurt its cash cow over censorship. From a PR perspective, it probably doesn’t want to hand the reigns over to Beijing either.

I don’t expect this to change soon. 


Apple, as is usually the case in matters like this, hasn’t responded to request for comment.

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  1. are you telling me the News app was available in corrupt China but isn’t available in Europe?
    Apple is F’d up

    • Seth Weintraub - 7 years ago

      No but when you take your US iOS device to Europe it works. The minute you go onto a Chinese Network, Apple News shits itself.

  2. John Hulaboo - 7 years ago


  3. Graham J - 7 years ago

    It’s disabled here in Canada too. Hopefully not for similar reasons.

    Oh well I prefer Reeder + Feedly anyway.

    • Thomas Yoon - 7 years ago

      It’s not “disabled” in Canada, it was never activated. At the release keynote, they were only releasing it to the US, UK and Australia to start off with. I’m assuming Canada will get it a year later as usual.

  4. rogifan - 7 years ago

    Where exactly has Apple confirmed this? I must have missed it.

  5. Ben - 7 years ago

    Doesn’t everyone in China already use VPNs?

    • nekomichikun - 7 years ago

      The government has recently employed the use of DNS poisoning, which can interrupt VPNs from unblocking content.

  6. nekomichikun - 7 years ago

    It’s no surprise. Censorship is really getting out of control there, once I visited during a vacation and couldn’t submit an assignment because my university’s website was blocked for some reason.

    • Gregory Wright - 7 years ago

      Did you say censorship “getting” out of control – [this is communist China we’re talking about, right]? I think you mean’t to say censorship is China being China.

  7. markbyrn (@markbyrn) - 7 years ago

    What’s terrible here is bad tech pundit journalism considering Apple hasn’t confirmed anything; it says, “according to a person with direct knowledge of the situation” and the NYT article is more correctly titled, “Apple Is Said to Deactivate Its News App in China”

  8. Jim Hassinger - 7 years ago

    That’s right. it’s Apple’s fault for creating a communist dictatorship, just like Steve Jobs’ rule. Uh, the News app involves some contracts and agreements between Apple and news organizations. As such, it will take some time. Or, in the crazy version, “Ermahgerd! Chairman Jobs is a dictator like Mao!”

  9. Do i understand right that user simply got news update on the region by the app and got notification that service is not provided for the region? And what? Its just a apple news mechanism, some countries have it, some not

  10. Matthew Monsoor - 7 years ago

    And what about Russia, they want anything that supports freedom of expression blocked such as anything related to LBGT topics. Wonder what the U.S. is asking to be blocked on our devices here in the U.S. and I don’t mean just iPhones.

    • What a nonsense, lots of mass media here, everybody talks lots of different points of view, LGBT propaganda among children is prohibited. Please be worthy to educate yourself

      • srgmac - 7 years ago

        Uhm, isn’t the Russian government all pissed off because Apple put in “gay” emojis ?

  11. Zaire. - 7 years ago

    This isn’t anything new. Certain Arabic countries don’t allow FaceTime so the iPhone will disable that too. Being responsive to regional areas and different governments is just part of being a global company. Its ridiculous that this is even a topic of conversation. Its like saying that different cars require different regulations in different parts of the world.

    Well duh.

    • Bullshit, companies have no right to censor your devices, because they want to do business with dictators!!

      • 2is1toomany - 7 years ago

        When you travel to another country you are expected to respect their laws. Just as you would expect a foreigner to respect US law when visiting the US.

  12. This is f…..up it’s my f…ing phone for God’s sake, I bought it in the US with US Dollars, Apple better have a good explanation for this, Tim are you reading?

  13. Apple News just wrap the news sites in something like JSOM/XML. If you have no Internet access to those sites, you have no access to those news.
    What do people actually expect? News have some magical power for you to access sites you can’t access?

    If this is a news, I look forward headlines like “ice will melt” and “sun will go down” from Apple News

  14. Dan (@danmdan) - 7 years ago

    He who sups with the Devil must needs have a long spoon. It will never happen, but I wish some big Company would just refuse to co-operate with their censorship, and remove their business from China entirely.

    • Would be lovely – but the pursuit of the almighty dollar/pound/euro or whatever is more important.

      • At this point in the global economy it would be a bad idea for your business to not enter China at the moment. While their economic growth may be slowing they are still a huge market. I’m not sure how we can even still call them Communist. As stated above Google refused to play straight dice and got booted and are currently trying to mend fences. China is a huge market, these big corporations needs access to China more than the Chinese needs their “things”. Just my two cents.

  15. tush4r - 7 years ago

    Change Country to US – Reboot, – you are done. News app will appear.

    • rahhbriley - 7 years ago

      Are you sure about this? Or are you trying to provide a good idea to try? Your statement seemed pretty authoritative.

      The article seems to read that censoring is based on the server your phone is connected to. My tiny brain makes me think maybe your suggestion wouldn’t work based on the server based censorship, but I have no idea. I’d love for someone in China to try…

      • herewegoagain7 - 7 years ago

        There’s no possible way it would work. It’s going to read the information from DNS and IP to determine your location, then shut down the app again. It’s just China being China.

      • tush4r - 7 years ago

        Yea, it will work. When I was on the pre-release DB, it had some trouble showing up until I changed my location and language preferences to the US. I am on Developer Beta 9.1 and it works.

    • Scor Shape (@ScorShape) - 7 years ago

      I’m in China: The above method will only make the app show up. That’s all. News content will still not appear in mainland China, even when using a VPN. It works fine outside, though. I was in Hong Kong one week ago.

      • rahhbriley - 7 years ago

        Thanks, I assumed this would be the case and that he had no idea.

  16. herewegoagain7 - 7 years ago

    Apple has ‘confirmed’ this with no comment and an off-the-record source. That’s not how that works…

    • mahmudf2014 - 7 years ago

      Does it matter? It’s blocked in China and that’s because it’s China. Apple had to do this and there was no other way. You can’t even surf on the web in China without coming across to a blocked website. I’m not even counting Google, Facebook and Twitter. I don’t know why is this in the news. The devices that are being sold in China don’t have FaceTime Audio, i think this is more important than the news app.

  17. James Pelow - 7 years ago

    Um… News is disabled here in Ireland and many other countries around the world simply by virtue of the fact that News is just not available in many countries. Are we sure this guy hasn’t just got a non-US Apple Store account? I find it hard to believe that iOS is hiding an app based purely on visibility of a wireless signal.

    Also, Apple has not confirmed anything. Terribly shoddy journalism.

  18. Jirka Stejskal - 7 years ago

    Well, ….. I doesn’t have Apple News either. I’m located in Czech Republic, said to be democratic country. Should I start protesting somewhere (train station?)?

  19. bpmajesty - 7 years ago

    ‘That Apple has little choice doesn’t make it any less creepy or outrageous.’

    That’s the dumbest line ever. The fact that you know and understand how little a choice Apple actually has (as we ALL do) makes this issue a non-issue. We know this. Google gave us a front row seat.

    Apple has no choice. Doesn’t matter how they do it- they have no choice. It’s not a violation of user data or privacy…. So, let’s all move on.

    • srgmac - 7 years ago

      Of course they have a choice! If the government wants to be like that, then don’t sell products there. Either way you justify it you’re supporting fascism.

  20. srgmac - 7 years ago

    This is AWFUL…first Google and now Apple. Is there nothing these censoring fuckbags can’t control? Say NO to government censorship!!!


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