A new report from The Intercept this week claims that Apple has once again bowed to its Chinese overlords, by expanding censorship tools used in mainland China to include Hong Kong.
When Safari users in Hong Kong recently tried to load the popular code-sharing website GitLab, they received a strange warning instead: Apple’s browser was blocking the site for their own safety. The access was temporarily cut off thanks to Apple’s use of a Chinese corporate website blacklist, which resulted in the innocuous site being flagged as a purveyor of misinformation. Neither Tencent, the massive Chinese firm behind the web filter, nor Apple will say how or why the site was censored.
The report says a warning screen from Tencent, the creator of WeChat and owner of League of Legends and a piece of Apple’s App Store rival Epic Games, “operates the safe browsing filter for Safari users in China on Apple’s behalf,” claiming it has now extended this safe browsing filter into Hong Kong.
The report claims that by “silently expanding the scope of the Tencent list” Apple can “remain in the good graces of China” while receiving “plausible deniability about how or why such site blocks happen.”
Citizen Lab researcher Jeffrey Knockel told the outlet that while “Tencent’s compliance with the Chinese national security agenda ought not to come as a surprise,” Apple’s should. “Tencent’s blocking of GitLab for Safari users underscores that Apple’s subjection of Hong Kong users to screening via a China-based company,” which he says “is problematic not only in principle but also in practice.”