China /

Apple Will Block WhatsApp, Threads on App Store in China

'We are obligated to follow the laws in the countries where we operate, even when we disagree’

Apple Will Block WhatsApp, Threads on App Store in China

Apple will comply with an order from the Chinese government to block Threads and WhatsApp on its app store in China.

Beijing claims the apps posed a threat to national security.

"The Cyberspace Administration of China ordered the removal of these apps from the China storefront based on their national security concerns," Apple said in a statement emailed to Reuters. "We are obligated to follow the laws in the countries where we operate, even when we disagree.”

The company did not respond to specific questions about Signal and Telegram, which also appeared to have been removed from the Apple app store on April 19. All four apps are still available in Hong Kong and Macau. Additionally, other Meta apps – including  Facebook, Instagram and Messenger – are still available on the Apple app store in China.

Meredith Whittaker, the president of Signal, told TechCrunch that the platform’s operations had already been blocked in China.

While Signal may have been available to download in the past, Signal registrations and messages are apparently blocked,” said Whittaker.

The removals come amid rising tensions between China and the United States as increased skepticism about foreign technology prompts both governments to take action.

“In recent days, Congress has been looking to fast-track legislation to push TikTok’s Chinese parent company, ByteDance, to divest the social media app,” reports CNBC. “The House could vote on a new bill as soon as Saturday, and U.S. President Joe Biden has said he will sign it into law if it reaches his desk.”

American technology companies have increasingly withdrawn from China as the nation’s government has increased market restrictions.

Yahoo announced in November of 2022 that its suite of services would no longer be accessible in mainland China, citing “the increasingly challenging business and legal environment.” At the time, a new law limiting “the conditions under which companies can gather personal information” and setting “rules for how it is used” had been enacted.

“Chinese laws also stipulate that companies operating in the country must hand over data if requested by authorities, making it difficult for international firms to operate in China as they may face pressure at home over giving in to Beijing’s demands,” noted The Guardian in its report on the change.

Microsoft shut down its local version of LinkedIn, the professional networking website, in October 2021. Google stopped operating in China in 2010.

Neither Threads nor WhatsApp dominate the Chinese app market. WeChat, created in 2011 by Tencent, is the nation’s biggest messaging platform with over 1.2 billion users.

Apple launched an online store within WeChat in 2023, selling a full line of its products.

*For corrections please email [email protected]*