App Store Removes WhatsApp, Threads, Signal, and Telegram after China Govt Order

Apple has removed Meta Platforms’ WhatsApp and Threads from its App Store in China. This is in response to an order from the Chinese government citing national security concerns.
Apple app store for businessThis action also affected two other foreign messaging apps, Telegram and Signal, according to reports from app tracking firms Qimai and AppMagic.

The removal of these four applications signals a growing intolerance from China’s central government towards certain foreign online messaging services that operate outside of its control. It also indicates a tightening grip on technology regulation within China, with potentially less flexibility for companies like Apple.

However, despite the removal of WhatsApp, Threads, Signal, and Telegram, other Meta apps such as Facebook, Instagram, and Messenger remain available for download, Reuters reported on Friday. Additionally, numerous popular Western-developed apps, including YouTube, continue to be accessible.

The reasons behind the security concerns raised by Chinese authorities regarding WhatsApp and Threads were not immediately clear. Apple acknowledged the directive from the Cyberspace Administration of China in an emailed statement, emphasizing its obligation to comply with local laws even if it disagrees with them.

Meta Platforms did not comment on the matter, redirecting inquiries to Apple. Apple did not respond to queries regarding Signal and Telegram, while representatives from both companies remained silent on the issue. The Cyberspace Administration of China did not provide an immediate response to requests for comment.

It’s worth noting that none of the four removed apps are widely utilized in China, where Tencent’s WeChat dominates the messaging service. Typically, foreign apps, including these four, are inaccessible on Chinese networks without the use of virtual private networks or other proxy tools.

Although banned in mainland China, WhatsApp, Threads, Signal, and Telegram remain available in Hong Kong and Macau, the two special administrative regions of China.

Some experts speculate that the government’s action against WhatsApp and Threads may be linked to a regulation introduced last August, requiring all apps available in China to register with the government or risk removal. The deadline for compliance was the end of March, and enforcement of the regulations began on April 1.

This isn’t the first time Apple has removed apps from its China App Store due to government directives. In 2017, The New York Times news app was pulled from the store for violating local regulations, amidst escalating news censorship in China. Similarly, last year, Apple removed several ChatGPT-like apps as Beijing formulated local regulations on generative artificial intelligence (AI) services.