Apple has officially removed all VPN apps from its China App Store, effective immediately. The move was done after the Chinese government’s crack-down on the internet as most of its users where using VPN apps to overcome the country’s strict censorship system.
One company, ExpressVPN, posted a letter it had received from Apple saying that its app had been taken down “because it includes content that is illegal in China.” ExpressVPN wrote in its blog that the removal was “surprising and unfortunate.”
Another tweeted from its official account that its app had been removed.
Although Apple’s play-safe strategy with the Chinese authority is a good move for the company, the purging of VPN apps is being seen as a major setback for free internet in China’s history.
This is not the first time that Apple has removed apps at the request of the Chinese government, but it is a new reminder of how deeply beholden the tech giant has become to Beijing at a moment when the leadership has been pushing to tighten its control over the internet.
But they also mark the first time China has successfully used its influence with a major foreign tech platform, like Apple, to push back against the software makers.
Is this a threat to net neutrality in China and rest of the world? Well, it sure does seem so!