Apple Inc removed podcast apps Pocket Casts and Castro from its App Store in China at the request of the Cyberspace Administration of China, the apps’ developers said this week.
“We believe podcasting is and should remain an open medium, free of government censorship,” Pocket Casts wrote on Twitter. “As such we won’t be censoring podcast content at their request.” The developers said that Apple contacted them on behalf of the Chinese regulator and that the app was removed two days later.
The developer wrote that Apple said Pocket Casts includes “content that is illegal in China as determined by the CAC.”
Castro said it received a similar notice from Apple around the same time as Pocket Casts and that it is still working out what to do. Castro said about 10 per cent of its user base is in China.
“Ultimately they can just block Castro’s servers in China even if we do nothing. So the question will be, do we want a lobotomized version of Castro in China or no Castro in China?,” Castro wrote on Twitter.
Apple didn’t respond to a request for comment on Thursday. The company has said in the past that it follows local laws in the countries where it operates.
“We understand this means that it’s unlikely that our iOS App will be available in China, but feel it’s a necessary step to take for any company that values the open distribution model that makes podcasting special,” Pocket Casts wrote on Twitter.
Neither app is currently highly ranked in Apple’s US App Store, but both are rated well by users and are commonly featured in listings of the top iPhone apps for listening to podcasts.
Apple’s own Podcasts app is available in mainland China, but it is limited with reduced content appearing in search and no ability to sort through different podcast categories.
In the past, Apple has been criticized for removing other apps from its App Store in China. Last year, it pulled the Quartz news app and a few years ago removed Skype. Earlier this year, the pandemic-themed game Plague was yanked.
On its website, Apple says that it removed 194 apps from the App Store in mainland China in the first half of 2019 for legal reasons.
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