Apple pulls thousands of gambling apps from App Store in China amid tightened regulations
Apple has removed thousands of gambling apps from its App Store in China after state media denounced the US technology giant for failing to protect consumers against banned online content.
“Gambling apps are illegal and not allowed on the App Store in China,” Apple said in a statement on Monday. “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.”
Apple had taken offline 500 apps, with the keyword “lottery” in their names between July 31 and August 13, as well as more than 4,000 gambling-related apps on August 9 to comply with regulations, according to state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) on Sunday.
The iPhone maker, however, has not confirmed how many apps it has wiped out of its App Store.
Policing online content, which has expanded because of the growth of social media, has become a major challenge to internet companies around the world. Earlier this year, the Chinese government launched a crackdown against various “inappropriate” online content.
Those include sensitive political news, lowbrow content, celebrity gossip and off-colour jokes deemed by Chinese authorities to be against socialist values.
With China as its second-largest market after the United States, the stakes are high for Apple to abide by the country’s strict laws covering online content.
The Cupertino, California-based company, which offers more than 1.8 million apps in China, has seen 270 per cent growth in app revenue in the country over the past two years, according to a Macquarie Research published earlier this year.
Apple has a history of routinely pulling apps from its online store for various reasons. In June last year, Apple removed more than 22,000 apps from its App Store in China – nearly 10 times greater than the normal rate – after the company was blamed for taking a 30 per cent cut of revenue generated by in-app donations sent via Chinese social networking platforms like Tencent Holdings’ WeChat.
The US company has also removed hundreds of virtual private network apps from its App Store in China since last year at the request of Beijing, which considers use of such software as a violation of the country’s cybersecurity laws.
Still, the Chinese government seemed less than impressed with Apple’s actions.
“Apple established the rules for allowing apps onto its store, but it did not follow them, which has resulted in a proliferation of fake lottery apps and gambling apps,” the CCTV said on Sunday.
It said Apple’s removal of gambling apps are not sufficient to protect consumers because the apps that have already been downloaded onto iPhones can still be used and updated.
In an earlier report on July 31, CCTV interviewed an iPhone user surnamed Mou who claimed to have lost 120,000 yuan (US$17,451) from using a lottery app downloaded from Apple’s App Store. It turned out that the app, which had the name Chongqing Welfare Lottery Distribution Centre, was not owned by that lottery firm based in that municipality in southwest China.
Mou was unable to file a lawsuit against the app developer because Apple refused to provide relevant information after negotiating with the US company for more than 50 days, according to the CCTV.
It said a Shanghai court has accepted Mou’s case, which demands that Apple provide information related to the fake lottery app and compensate his loss.
Apple said on Monday that it has set out to review rules that apps involving games, gambling and lottery tickets need to comply with relevant legal requirements of all countries and economies.