Freshly released Apple News is the latest in a list of websites and apps that appear to have been blocked in China.
iPhone users were met with the message: “Sorry news isn’t supported in your region”, unless accessing from a virtual private network (VPN), it was reported yesterday.
The revelation follows Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales issued stern words for companies complicit with Chinese censorship, and serves as a reminder of the ethical minefield facing tech firms operating in the Chinese market.
“If you’re Facebook, for example, and the condition for entering market is to give government access to everybody’s private messages.. Well if you don’t live in China you should go ballistic about that. I wouldn’t want to be part of a website where they are so free about other people’s human rights,” he said during a press conference last week.
The online encyclopedia he founded is currently banned in China, after it began encrypting data to block out state surveillance. It has been on-and offline over the past few years, and has operated while some of its pages were blocked, including references to Tiananmen Square.
Wales will visit China in coming weeks to discuss the next steps to getting his popular site back online.
There is a balance to be struck for websites and social networks that wish to operate in China. On one hand, bowing to the government’s snooping desires feels unethical. On the other, being present and providing information, albeit censored, for the population of China is the lesser of two evils.
Google 'did the right thing'
Google previously eyed up Chinese expansion, where Baidu was - and is currently - the most popular browser. It pulled out after it alleged the Chinese government had intercepted its systems. Gmail, Chrome and Google search has been unavailable for mainland China users since last year. The ethical issue exists outside of the tech industry. Many businesses refuse to operate in areas where racism is rife, like South Africa. But often companies set strict rules in place and hope that they can make a positive influence. It’s a fine line. But Google, "did the right thing," Wales said.
Who is blocked in China?
Facebook has been blocked in China since 2008. Here are some other Western companies that are inaccessible.
YouTube, since 2009
Twitter, since 2009
Blogspot, since 2009
Yahoo, blocked in 2011 but ban lifted 2014
Instagram, since 2014
Dropbox, since 2014
SoundCloud, since 2013
Wikileaks, since 2011
Sony Music, since 2012
Sony, banned in 2012 but since unblocked
The Independent, blocked in 2012 but subsequently made available
Flickr, blocked for an unknown period but currently offline
The BBC, unblocked in October 2014
Amnesty International, unblocked in 2012
Pornhub, blocked in 2012.
The blacklist show a range of companies that either refused to play ball or offer strong encryption for customers.
These sites are available through a proxy or VPN. Hong Kong users are under different rules and can access the sites.