AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
If you're trying to download The New York Times on your iPhone in China, there is no longer an app for that. Apple has removed the news app for The New York Times from its mobile store in the country. It's the latest in a long history of tech companies ceding to Chinese restrictions on Western media. NPR's tech blogger Alina Selyukh is here to tell us more. Welcome to the studio.
ALINA SELYUKH, BYLINE: Hi.
CORNISH: What does Apple say happened?
SELYUKH: Apple says it is complying with a request from Chinese authorities to remove both the Chinese language and English language news apps by The New York Times from its app store in the country. And The Times reports, actually, this decision happened about two weeks ago. And meanwhile, other big Western news apps are still available to download, like The Wall Street Journal. And even some of the other Times apps are still up, like the crossword puzzle - just not the news app.
CORNISH: And Apple has been getting some criticism for this move, right? I mean, how do they justify it?
SELYUKH: The company points out that The New York Times app has long not been permitted to actually display any content to most users and says that it's been informed that the app violates local regulations. Now, Apple isn't specifying what regulations these were exactly, but The Times suggests that it might be the new rules for mobile apps that were issued last year. And they prohibit activities that, for example, might endanger national security or disrupt social order, among other things.
CORNISH: So how significant is this? I mean, is this the first time Apple has, like, removed a news app just because Chinese authorities asked them to?
SELYUKH: This is not the first time Apple has removed an app. They've done that with other apps and specifically media apps in the past, but none of them have been as prominent as The New York Times. And it's important to point out that The Times as a website has long faced crackdowns in China, going back to 2012, when they did a series of stories on the wealth of the prime minister's family. And many other Western news outlets have faced similar retaliatory blackouts - for instance, Bloomberg, Time magazine, The Economist. And users in China have sort of adapted to this. They often use software to circumvent the so-called Great Chinese Firewall to surf the web and access some of these websites.
CORNISH: And I can't imagine it's just news organizations. We know that tech companies have also faced restrictions.
SELYUKH: Certainly. Twitter, Facebook, Google - they've all faced blackouts. Apple's own books and movie services were shut down very soon after first launching. For tech companies, it's been a very delicate market. It's very large. It's very lucrative. For companies like Apple that make actual things, it's a huge manufacturing hub. Apple specifically has had its iPhone sales slump in recent years in China. But then last year, they did this pretty uncharacteristic investment, putting a billion dollars into basically a Chinese version of Uber, a ride-hailing app, Didi. So a lot of these tech companies are walking a very delicate line, trying to stay within the boundaries of local regulations, but also trying to grow their market share there.
CORNISH: That's NPR's tech blogger, Alina Selyukh. Thanks so much.
SELYUKH: Thank you.
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