Apple, which has famously fashioned itself as the friend of rebels and freethinkers everywhere, has once again shown itself willing to take the side of the censors and autocrats. Lured by profits, Apple continues to do the bidding of the Chinese government by banning certain iPhone and iPad apps in China's App Store.
The latest instance came in late October, when Apple pulled the Free Weibo app from the App Store in China. Free Weibo is designed to allow people to read censored comments on China's popular microblogging platform, Sina Weibo. Sina Weibo is a frequent target of such censorship. For example, when the Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei used the site to ask people to post information about the disastrous 2008 Sichuan earthquake, his messages were deleted and his account pulled.
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Earlier in October, Apple banned the OpenDoor app, which allowed iOS users in China to bypass the Great Firewall of China, a facetious name given to a very serious effort to stop people inside the country from visiting websites the government doesn't want them to see.
These incidents are only the latest in a long line. Apple has banned apps that refer to the Dalai Lama and Uighur activist Rebiya Kadeer, as well as a news app by New Tang Dynasty Television, a satellite broadcaster based in the United States that was founded by Falun Gong members.
The banning of apps that mention the Dalai Lama is particularly ironic, given that Apple featured a photo of him in its well-known "Think Different" marketing campaign. That campaign praised, in Apple's word, "The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently...They push the human race forward...The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do."
But one of them stands in the way of Apple's profits. So goodbye, Dalai Lama.