Apple’s Safari web browser has filters to protect users from malicious websites.
However, these filters are managed by the Chinese company Tencent, and they contain a lot of censorship. Now, Apple is expanding this censorship to users in Hong Kong.
According to a report by The Intercept, Safari users in Hong Kong are now being warned when they try to access certain websites. An error message appears that says the website has been blocked for the safety of users without any further details. While internet access in mainland China has been heavily censored for years, the situation was much better in Hong Kong until the new security law in 2020.
Software engineer and former Apple employee Chu Ka-Cheong noticed on December 30 that websites like GitLab (an online platform for open-source code) had suddenly stopped opening. According to Safari, the content was blocked because the website had “unverified information.” Access to GitLab was restored several days later. Still, it is unclear how many other websites were affected or why the censorship imposed by China was expanded to Hong Kong without explanation.
This has led to concerns about Apple complying with the Chinese government’s demands, despite selling privacy as a built-in feature of its products and services. As one person puts it, “Presumably people purchase Apple devices because they believe the company when they say that ‘privacy is a fundamental human right.’ What they fail to add is *except if you are Chinese.”
In 2020, Apple released a formal statement pledging to fight for human rights and free speech after an investor group criticized the company for never taking a stand against China’s censorship demands. Then, earlier this year, Apple promised to explain why it removed some apps from the App Store. Still, it seems that little has changed in practice since then.