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Apple Says China Ordered Removal of WhatsApp, Threads From App Store

China, Apple, App Store, iPhone

Apple has removed Meta’s WhatsApp and Threads, as well as Telegram and Signal, from its App Store in China.

The company was ordered to do so by the Cyberspace Administration of China, which cited national security concerns, Apple told Reuters in a report posted Friday (April 19).

“We are obligated to follow the laws in the countries where we operate, even when we disagree,” the tech company told the media outlet.

Other Meta apps remain available for download in the App Store in China, including Facebook, Instagram and Messenger, according to the report. Many popular apps from other companies, including YouTube and X, are also available.

The four apps that were removed from the store Friday remain available in China’s two special administrative regions, Hong Kong and Macau, the report said.

Even before this move, the apps, and many other foreign apps, were blocked on Chinese networks by the country’s “Great Firewall” and can only be used with proxy tools, per the report.

It was reported in December that China was widening its ban on the use of Apple’s iPhone by government employees, with a growing number of government agencies and state-owned businesses instructing workers to stop bringing iPhones and other foreign devices to work.

Plans for the ban were first reported in September, followed by the news weeks later that China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology had issued new rules that could block Apple from offering many foreign apps in its App Store in the country.

Those new rules allow only the apps of app operators that are registered with the government to be offered on the App Store.

The rules aren’t specifically targeted toward Apple, but rather are part of China’s ongoing efforts to enhance data-security regulations, according to reports at the time. They aimed to close the loophole in the Great Firewall that allows Chinese iPhone users to download popular Western social media apps through virtual private networks (VPNs).

At the time, those social media apps had been downloaded more than 170 million times over the past decade.

In September, mobile app stores operated by companies like Tencent and Xiaomi also began blocking app publishers from debuting new apps if they haven’t made the proper disclosures to authorities.