Apple Drops WhatsApp, Threads from China App Store on Official Order

China is a key market for Apple, which last year topped the country's smartphone market for the first time. Hector RETAMAL / AFP
China is a key market for Apple, which last year topped the country's smartphone market for the first time. Hector RETAMAL / AFP
TT

Apple Drops WhatsApp, Threads from China App Store on Official Order

China is a key market for Apple, which last year topped the country's smartphone market for the first time. Hector RETAMAL / AFP
China is a key market for Apple, which last year topped the country's smartphone market for the first time. Hector RETAMAL / AFP

Apple has removed the Meta-owned WhatsApp and Threads from its App Store in China following an order from the country's top internet regulator, Bloomberg reported Friday citing the tech giant.
Beijing engages in some of the world's most extensive internet censorship, with web users in mainland China unable to access everything from Google to many foreign apps without using a virtual private network, AFP said.
"We are obligated to follow the laws in the countries where we operate, even when we disagree," said Apple in a statement, according to Bloomberg.
"The Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) ordered the removal of these apps from the China storefront based on their national security concerns," said Apple, referring to China's internet regulator.
"These apps remain available for download on all other storefronts where they appear."
A Meta spokesperson referred AFP to Apple, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The CAC and the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology -- another top Chinese internet regulatory body -- also did not immediately respond.
China is a key market for Apple, which last year topped the country's smartphone market for the first time.
But thorny issues of censorship and national security have long hounded the US-based firm's operations in China as Beijing and Washington engage in a fierce battle for technological supremacy.
In January, China said it had cracked Apple's encrypted AirDrop communication service, which had once given protesters a vital channel for sharing information during the major 2019 pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.
State-backed experts said in January that they had devised a way to reveal an iPhone's encrypted device log, allowing them to then identify an AirDrop user's phone number and email accounts.
Many online platforms that are popular in much of the world -- including Google, Facebook, X, WhatsApp and TikTok -- are blocked in mainland China.
But savvy iPhone users in China have still been able to download banned platforms through Apple's app store, then use a VPN to get around the restrictions.
Removing WhatsApp and Threads from the Chinese app store will greatly complicate the ability of new iPhone users to access the apps.
The latest development comes a day before a scheduled vote in the US House of Representatives to force the wildly popular video app TikTok to sever all links with its Chinese parent ByteDance.
US officials have raised concerns in recent years over potential national security and privacy threats posed by TikTok, despite repeated assurances by the firm that it presents no risks to the American public.
Beijing has frequently lashed out against US restrictions on Chinese tech, claiming they are a pretext to contain the country's economic rise.



Saudi Ministry of Media Signs MoU with Microsoft Arabia on Artificial Intelligence in Media

The Saudi Ministry of Media and Microsoft Arabia signed in Riyadh on Tuesday a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to cooperate in several fields, including artificial intelligence. (SPA)
The Saudi Ministry of Media and Microsoft Arabia signed in Riyadh on Tuesday a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to cooperate in several fields, including artificial intelligence. (SPA)
TT

Saudi Ministry of Media Signs MoU with Microsoft Arabia on Artificial Intelligence in Media

The Saudi Ministry of Media and Microsoft Arabia signed in Riyadh on Tuesday a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to cooperate in several fields, including artificial intelligence. (SPA)
The Saudi Ministry of Media and Microsoft Arabia signed in Riyadh on Tuesday a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to cooperate in several fields, including artificial intelligence. (SPA)

The Saudi Ministry of Media and Microsoft Arabia signed in Riyadh on Tuesday a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to cooperate in several fields, including artificial intelligence.

The areas of cooperation also include developing technical aspects in data analysis, machine learning, security and privacy solutions, and software and service development solutions to improve the quality of local media content and keep pace with global developments to serve the Ministry’s future goals.

The signing ceremony was attended by Assistant Minister of Media Dr. Abdullah bin Ahmed Al-Maghlooth and Microsoft's Executive Vice President of Data and Artificial Intelligence Ziad Mansour.

The Ministry of Media was represented by General Manager of Digital Transformation and Information Technology and General Manager of Cybersecurity Eng. Bassem Al-Hazmi and Microsoft Arabia President Turki Badhris represented the company.

The memorandum aims to boost the media sector in Saudi Arabia, enabling it to contribute to the local economy and benefit from the advancements of artificial intelligence and its various applications in media.