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Apple may have a better relationship with the Chinese government than some of its contemporaries, but it appears they are not taking any chances.

The U.S. -based company has evidently disabled their news app in China, hoping to circumvent he censorship discussion all together. 

Users who attempt to access the app on the mainland without the aid of a VPN (virtual private network) will now see the error message “Can’t refresh now. News isn’t supported in your current region.”

Apple launched the news app in June, which is currently only available for users who have registered in the U.S. and some test markets in Britain and Australia. However those who had already loaded the app on their device have been able to use it globally without interference, with China now the only exception. 

The app, a reader that compiles a customized news feed based on the readers’ preferences, features major western news outlets that are restricted or banned in China behind the Great Firewall. While some companies, including Linkedin, have agreed to allow selective censorship of their content, it appears Apple will avoid the debate entirely by making the service completely unavailable to Chinese users. 

Apple Avoiding Controversy In China

Unlike some of its U.S. tech contemporaries, including Google and Facebook, Apple has maintained a relatively positive relationship with China’s regulatory authorities, due in large part to the fact that it is not a content creator at heart.

However despite being their second-largest market, China is still frequently left out of batch-one releases for major Apple software. Late last month, Apple finally launched Apple Music on the Chinese mainland, almost exactly three months after its global launch. The company also opened iTunes Movies and iBooks on the same day. 

It’s unclear whether Apple received a request to remove the feature in China, or if they were making a preemptive move to avoid potential backlash. Many content producers, including media outlets, game makers and social platforms, provide ‘lite’ versions of their products in order to appease government censors. Google has reportedly been working on a modified Play Store for the Chinese market, while Linkedin has attracted controversy in the past for censoring posts on its Chinese language platform as well as their localized app.

China already has complex laws requiring foreign tech companies to host servers within the country if they intend to create locally available content. Considering Apple News is not a core product, especially in the Chinese market where it has not yet been officially launched, it’s likely the company will not attract the ire of either consumers or government by attempting to make the news app available in any form.

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