Apple Inc has removed the New York Times Co’s news apps from its app store in China following a request from the Chinese authorities, the companies said separately on Thursday. Apple removed both the English-language and Chinese-language apps from the iTunes store in China on December 23, according to the New York Times, which first reported the action. The request comes as the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), the country’s top internet regulatory body, has called for greater media scrutiny, citing fears of social disorder, moral harm and threats to national security.
The regulator did not immediately provide a comment on the removal of the New York Times app. “The request by the Chinese authorities to remove our apps is part of their wider attempt to prevent readers in China from accessing independent news coverage by The New York Times of that country,” the New York Times spokeswoman Eileen Murphy told media.
“We have asked Apple to reconsider their decision,” Murphy said. The Chinese government has blocked The Times’ websites since 2012 after a series of articles on the wealth amassed by the family of Wen Jiabao, who was then prime minister, according to the New York Times report.
“We have been informed that the app is in violation of local regulations,” Fred Sainz, an Apple spokesman told media. An Apple spokeswoman in China declined to comment on which regulatory body they conferred with and specific reasons behind the request.
Apple has previously removed news apps from its China app store, but none as high-profile as the New York Times. Apple also removed its iBooks store and iTunes Movies services in April 2016 on request from authorities. The services remain blocked.
Apps from other international publications whose websites are blocked by Chinese regulators, including CNN, The Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times, were still available in the app store on Thursday.
Chinese mainstream media has not reported the app removal but it was discussed widely on social media. “This must be coming from the request of The Wall right?” said one user on Chinese social media service Weibo, referring to the country’s state-backed internet censorship program. “Apple has made enough money in China, it’s OK for it to take the blame this time for the sake of the money.”
Other users said they would attempt to change their country ID within the app store to restore access to the app. While the New York Times has remained blocked since 2012, mirroring sites managed by anti-censorship advocates have periodically made its content available in the country.