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China Orders Apple to Cut WhatsApp, Threads from App Store

US tech giant said Beijing ordered it to cut the messaging apps because of national security concerns; Telegram and Signal were also removed

China's cyber regulator ordered Apple to drop Meta's WhatsApp and Threads from its App Store in China (File Reuters image).


Apple said on Friday it has removed WhatsApp and Threads from its App Store in China.

The US tech giant said it took that action after the Chinese government ordered it to cut the messaging apps because of national security concerns.

Telegram and Signal – two other foreign messaging apps – were also removed from the store on Friday, according to app tracking firms Qimai and AppMagic.


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The removal of the four apps suggests growing intolerance on the part of China’s central government towards some foreign online messaging services that fall outside its control. It also signals less leeway for Apple in China.


Facebook, Instagram, Messenger not affected

That said, other Meta Platforms’ apps such as Facebook, Instagram and Messenger remained available to download, according to checks by Reuters on Friday.

Many other popular apps developed by Western companies including YouTube and X were also available.

It was not immediately clear how WhatsApp or Threads might have caused security concerns for Chinese authorities.

“The Cyberspace Administration of China ordered the removal of these apps from the China storefront based on their national security concerns,” Apple said in an emailed statement.

“We are obligated to follow the laws in the countries where we operate, even when we disagree,” the statement said.

Meta declined to comment and referred queries to Apple.

Apple did not respond to requests for comment on Signal and Telegram. Representatives for the two companies did not immediately reply to requests for comment.

The Cyberspace Administration of China also did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

None of the four apps are widely used in China – where Tencent’s WeChat is by far the dominant service.

Many foreign apps are normally blocked on Chinese networks by the “Great Firewall” – the country’s extensive system of cyber censorship – and can only be used with a virtual private network or other proxy tools.

The four apps remain available in Hong Kong and Macau, China’s two special administrative regions.

Some experts on China’s tech industry said the government order on WhatsApp and Threads could be related to a new rule last August that requires all apps available in China to register with the government or risk being removed.

The deadline for companies to complete registrations was the end of March and the regulations came into effect on April 1.

Apple has removed apps from its China app store before.

In 2017, Apple removed The New York Times news app, saying it violated local regulations – a move that came amid rising news censorship in the world’s second-largest economy. It remains unavailable on Apple’s China App Store.

Last year, Apple pulled a number of ChatGPT-like apps when Beijing was working on local regulations on generative artificial intelligence (AI) services.


  • Reuters with additional editing by Jim Pollard



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Jim Pollard

Jim Pollard is an Australian journalist based in Thailand since 1999. He worked for News Ltd papers in Sydney, Perth, London and Melbourne before travelling through SE Asia in the late 90s. He was a senior editor at The Nation for 17+ years.


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