Apple ordered to remove WhatsApp and Threads in China

Apple users in China will no longer find WhatsApp and Threads available for download from the App Store, as reported by The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. Apple confirmed that it removed the apps to comply with orders from Cyberspace Administration, China’s internet regulator, citing national security concerns. The company stated that it is “obligated to follow the laws in the countries where [it operates], even when [it disagrees].”

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The Great Firewall of China blocks many foreign apps and technologies, causing locals to use VPNs for access. While Meta’s Facebook and Instagram have long been blocked in China, WhatsApp and Threads remained accessible for download until now. The Chinese regulator’s directive comes ahead of a Senate vote on a bill that could potentially lead to a TikTok ban in the US. The reasoning of China’s regulator, citing national security concerns, echoes the argument of American lawmakers seeking to block TikTok.

Under the current version of the US bill, ByteDance will have a year to divest TikTok, failing which the short-form video platform could face a ban from app stores. The House is expected to approve the bill, which is part of a larger package that includes aid to Ukraine and Israel. President Joe Biden previously expressed support for the package and plans to sign the bills into law immediately.