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China's directive leads Apple to remove WhatsApp and Threads from App Store, dealing blow to Mark Zuckerberg

In a significant setback for Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg, the WhatsApp and Threads applications will no longer be accessible on the Apple App Store.

Written by  Annesha Barua -- April 19th 2024 04:27 PM
China's directive leads Apple to remove WhatsApp and Threads from App Store, dealing blow to Mark Zuckerberg

China's directive leads Apple to remove WhatsApp and Threads from App Store, dealing blow to Mark Zuckerberg

PTC News Desk: In a significant blow to Meta Platforms CEO Mark Zuckerberg, the Chinese government has issued a directive to Apple, compelling the removal of two popular social media applications, WhatsApp and Threads, from the Apple App Store. This directive marks a substantial setback for Zuckerberg, as these apps, integral to Meta's ecosystem, will no longer be accessible to users via Apple's platform.

The move by China is perceived as a strategic effort to tighten control over its cyberspace, aiming to close any perceived loopholes in its Internet firewall. By targeting prominent foreign social media platforms, China aims to assert its authority over online content and communication channels within its borders.

Apple, in compliance with Chinese regulations, promptly removed WhatsApp and Threads from the App Store. The tech giant emphasised its commitment to respecting the laws and regulations of the countries in which it operates, emphasising its adherence to legal mandates even in cases of disagreement or conflict.

China's directive extended beyond Meta's offerings, as Apple also removed Signal and Telegram, two other messaging services, from the App Store. The Cyberspace Administration of China cited national security concerns as justification for these actions, underscoring the government's heightened scrutiny over foreign-developed applications operating within its jurisdiction.

This latest development follows China's earlier mandate, issued in August, which required all mobile app developers to register with the government or face closure. The government framed this requirement as a measure to combat online scams and fraud. With the deadline for compliance set for March-end, these regulatory actions have reshaped the landscape of app availability in China.

Domestic social media platforms, such as Tencent Holdings's WeChat, stand to benefit from the removal of foreign competitors, consolidating their dominance within the Chinese market. Rich Bishop, co-founder and CEO of AppInChina, noted that less sensitive apps with significant Chinese business interests, like Duolingo, are likely to comply with regulatory requirements to maintain their operations in China.

As a result of these regulatory interventions, Chinese consumers may find themselves increasingly reliant on domestic apps, with only a limited selection of international platforms available. This shift underscores the broader trend of governments asserting control over digital spaces and shaping the accessibility of online services within their respective jurisdictions.

Developments in the United States

As China enforces measures against certain apps, the US government is also taking action, particularly targeting TikTok, a popular Chinese-owned video-sharing platform operated by ByteDance Ltd. Citing concerns over national security, the US government is actively pursuing avenues to potentially ban TikTok.

ByteDance has been presented with a choice: either divest ownership of TikTok to a non-Chinese entity or risk facing a ban within the United States.

- With inputs from agencies

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