Apple removes thousands of gambling apps from Chinese App Store after bowing to pressure from Beijing

China is a crucial market for Apple, which has repeatedly made accommodations for the country’s strict regulations  – AFP

Apple has removed around 25,000 gambling apps from its Chinese App Store because they fell foul of Chinese regulations, according to reports.

The apps were pulled following an investigation by Chinese state-run broadcaster CCTV that looked at how Apple filters banned material on its App Store.

Gambling is illegal in China, but many people do participate in state-run lottery programmes.

CCTV found that illegal gambling apps were available to download on China’s App Store, with some posing as official lottery schemes.

Apple said it has rectified the issue but would not confirm reports that it had pulled 25,000 apps. 

“We have already removed many apps and developers for trying to distribute illegal gambling apps on our App Store, and we are vigilant in our efforts to find these and stop them from being on the App Store,” an Apple spokesman said.

Apple’s cull is the latest reminder of how US companies who want to do business in China are being forced to change the way they operate in an attempt to access the nations 750m internet users.

Apple offers more than 1.8 million apps in China and has repeatedly made accommodations for the country’s strict regulations surrounding the use of technology and the internet.

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Last year, Apple removed around 700 virtual private network apps from the Chinese App Store. The apps allowed Chinese customers to circumvent China’s so-called “Great Firewall” internet restrictions, which block many websites and online searches.

In February, Apple was forced to begin hosting the online iCloud accounts of Chinese users in a new data center in Guizhou province in China, rather than storing the information abroad.

“While we advocated against iCloud being subject to these laws, we were ultimately unsuccessful,” an Apple spokesman said at the time.

The Chinese company that stored citizen’s iCloud data has since agreed to store the information on servers operated by a division of the state-run technology company China Telecom.

Privacy advocates have expressed concern that Apple’s policy of hosting Chinese user data on servers run by the Chinese government could risk government surveillance.

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However, Apple said that the joint venture in China does not mean that the country’s government has a “backdoor” into iCloud data.

Google is also eager to enter the lucrative Chinese market by launching a censored version of its search engine – a move that has been widely criticised by its own employees. 

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