Apple: Letting China block apps lets us keep bolstering free speech

Apple: Letting China block apps lets us keep bolstering free speech
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Apple told senators that capitulating to the Chinese government's ban on certain privacy apps would help the iPhone continue to "promote greater opennness [sic] and facilitate the free flow of ideas and information."

The comments came in a written response to Sens. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyCongress hunts for path out of spending stalemate This week: House kicks off public phase of impeachment inquiry Senators press NSA official over shuttered phone surveillance program MORE (D-Vt.) and Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzTrump circuit court nominee in jeopardy amid GOP opposition Trump has officially appointed one in four circuit court judges On The Money: Retirement savings bill blocked in Senate after fight over amendments | Stopgap bill may set up December spending fight | Hardwood industry pleads for relief from Trump trade war MORE (R-Texas), who asked the firm in October why it had removed virtual private network (VPN) apps from its Chinese app store.

VPN apps skirt surveillance efforts, including China's rigid censorship regime. China now requires VPNs to cooperate with its internet filters.

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"We are convinced that Apple can best promote fundamental rights, including the right of free expression, by being engaged even where we may disagree with a particular country's laws," said Apple's letter, dated Tuesday.

Cruz and Leahy had asked Apple to explain why it "enabled" China's law.

"We are concerned that Apple may be enabling the Chinese government’s censorship and surveillance of the Internet,” they wrote.

Apple emphasized that its iPhone store still tallied more than 1.8 million apps even without the banned VPN apps. They also noted that these apps "have been downloaded more than 71 billion times by our Chinese customers."