In the long-running saga of American companies caving to pressures from the Chinese Communist Party in order to make a buck in the totalitarian dystopia at the expense of implicitly endorsing the despotic government's human rights abuses, new reporting reveals that Apple is the latest to rush to the CCP's rescue just ahead of the fledgling uprising that's caused protests in various cities much to the CCP's chagrin.
Those speaking out against the Chinese Communist Party are finding themselves without a key method of sharing information under China's censorious regime, thanks to Apple's decision to limit the ability of iPhone users in China to pass files from device to device, bypassing the CCP's censors and surveillance state.
As Yahoo Finance noted, Apple's decision for users in China means that the "country’s most widespread show of public dissent in decades will have to manage without a crucial communication tool, because Apple restricted its use in China earlier this month."
The report explains further how Apple pushed a software update for its handsets in China that kneecapped a key means of spreading information:
AirDrop, the file-sharing feature on iPhones and other Apple devices, has helped protestors in many authoritarian countries evade censorship. That’s because AirDrop relies on direct connections between phones, forming a local network of devices that don’t need the internet to communicate. People can opt into receiving AirDrops from anyone else with an iPhone nearby.
That changed on Nov. 9, when Apple released a new version of its mobile operating system, iOS 16.1.1, to customers worldwide. Rather than listing new features, as it often does, the company simply said, “This update includes bug fixes and security updates and is recommended for all users.”
Hidden in the update was a change that only applies to iPhones sold in mainland China: AirDrop can only be set to receive messages from everyone for 10 minutes, before switching off. There’s no longer a way to keep the “everyone” setting on permanently on Chinese iPhones. The change, first noticed by Chinese readers of 9to5Mac, doesn’t apply anywhere else.
Yahoo Finance also noted that AirDrop has seen use on college campuses, where several of the protests broke out recently, to disseminate protest documents and plans under the CCP's radar and without having to attempt breaking through the communist government's stranglehold on internet traffic.
Apple has released a software update limiting the use of AirDrop in China in light of recent protests.— Whole Mars Catalog (@WholeMarsBlog) November 28, 2022
AirDrop was being used by protesters to transmit info directly phone to phone, bypassing the Great Firewall of China. pic.twitter.com/2UNtOeuTBZ
According to the report, Apple did not respond to a request for comment and answers on its change to AirDrop settings, but did cite a previous Bloomberg report that claimed Apple planned to set a time limit to receive files via AirDrop from anyone as a "global standard" in 2023.
"But why did Apple rush out the change unannounced, in an unassuming update to iOS in early November, and appliy it only to Chinese iPhones?" Yahoo asked, stating the obvious, before pointing to Xi Jinping's "anointment to a third term as China's leader" that saw some protests break out in response. Yahoo Finance also notes that this is not the first time Apple has chosen to cave to the CCP's demands, removing apps from China's App Store that were being used by protesters to coordinate activities and spread information that was disfavored by the communist country's leaders, including during the Hong Kong protests in 2019.
Now with the change to AirDrop settings for users in China as it has before, Yahoo Finance concludes rightfully, "Apple is once again coming to the government's aid."