Audible and sacred books removed from Apple store in China as country tightens internet rules

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Amazon’s Audible audiobook service and phone apps for reading the holy books of Islam and Christianity have been removed from the Apple Store in mainland China as the country tightens its internet rules.

The makers of the apps for reading and listening to the Bible and the Quran both said the apps were removed from the China-based Apple store at the request of the government, apparently due to restrictions on apps distributing books or magazines. The two developers said they plan to work with the government to restore the apps.

Audible gave a similar reason on Friday and said in a statement that it pulled its app from the Apple Store in mainland China last month “due to licensing requirements.”

The AppleCensorship monitoring website was the first to detect deletions. The website monitors Apple’s App Store to detect when apps have been blocked, especially in China and other countries with authoritarian governments.

For more Associated Press reporting, see below:

Audible, Bible and Quran listening and reading apps have been removed from mainland China’s Apple Store as the country tightens internet censorship rules. General view of the Audible brand sign and logo on a colorful window during the Sundance Film Festival on January 23, 2020 in Park City, Utah.
Mat Hayward / Getty Images

Apple did not return requests for comment on Friday. The Chinese Embassy in the United States either

The Chinese government has long sought to control the flow of information online, but is increasingly stepping up its enforcement of the internet industry in other ways, making it difficult to determine the causes for the removal of a particular app.

Chinese regulators have sought this year to tighten data privacy restrictions and limit the amount of time children can play video games. They also exert increased control over the algorithms used by tech companies to personalize and recommend content.

The popular American language learning app Duolingo disappeared from Apple’s Chinese store over the summer, as did many video game apps.

Pakistan Data Management Services, which makes the Quran Majeed app, said it was waiting for more information from the Chinese internet authority on how it can be restored. The app has nearly one million users in China and around 40 million worldwide, the Karachi-based company said.

Those who had previously downloaded the app can still use it, said Hasan Shafiq Ahmed, the company’s head of growth and relationships.

“We are looking to determine what documentation is needed to get approval from Chinese authorities so that the app can be restored,” he said in an email.

The maker of a Bible app said it removed it from the Apple Store in China after learning from Apple’s App Store review process that it needed special permission to distribute an app with “book or magazine content”. Olive Tree Bible Software, based in Spokane, Wash., Said it is currently reviewing the conditions for obtaining the necessary license “in the hope that we can restore our app to the Chinese App Store and continue to distribute the Bible in the whole world”.

The Council on US-Islamic Relations condemned Apple’s actions, saying the company allows China’s religious persecution of Muslims and others.

“This decision must be overturned,” said a statement from CAIR’s deputy national director, Edward Ahmed Mitchell. “If American companies don’t develop a backbone and stand up to China right now, they risk spending the next century submitting to the whims of a fascist superpower.”

This week, Microsoft announced that it would shut down its main LinkedIn service in China later this year, citing a “significantly more difficult operating environment and stricter compliance requirements in China.”

Unlike LinkedIn, which has offered a specialized Chinese service since 2014, Audible, owned by Amazon, said it does not have a dedicated customer service department in China.

Apple Store China
Amazon’s Audible audiobook service and phone apps for reading the holy books of Islam and Christianity have disappeared from the Apple Store in mainland China, in latest examples of the country’s tightening of rules for business Internet. In this September 28 file photo, people wearing face masks to help curb the spread of the coronavirus try out the latest iPhone 13 handsets at an Apple store in Beijing.
Andy Wong / AP Photo


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