Apple restricts file sharing of Chinese iPhones

Apple has imposed restrictions on its iPhones sold in China for file sharing between devices, a function that could potentially be used to circumvent censorship and disseminate information deemed hostile or critical of power. The AirDrop function of an iPhone allows unlimited sharing with a nearby Apple device of all types of content, including photos and videos.

Since Wednesday, an update on the American group’s phones sold in China automatically deactivates this function after 10 minutes. This restriction greatly reduces the likelihood of unexpectedly receiving files from strangers. The AirDrop function could previously be used to transmit messages deemed sensitive and protected from censorship.

highly monitored internet

In particular, it has been used in public places to broadcast slogans critical of the ruling Communist Party, following a rare demonstration in Beijing last month. Banners hostile to President Xi Jinping were then briefly hung on a bridge in the capital, just before a Communist Party congress. This gesture of defiance was surprising in a city then crisscrossed by security forces and equipped with countless surveillance cameras.

Read also: In China, Xi Jinping gives himself the means to “end the mess”

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for explanation from AFP. The brand’s products sold outside of China did not seem to be affected by these restrictions on the latest iOS 16.1.1 update. Some Internet users welcomed Thursday on the Weibo social network a positive measure intended to “significantly reduce” the “harassment” of strangers. Others mocked the Apple CEO. “Is Tim Cook a member of the Communist Party?” asked a surfer ironically.

China closely monitors its internet. Censors delete content that portrays state policy in a bad light or is likely to create unrest. Many foreign media sites are also unavailable without the use of VPN-type circumvention software. In 2017, Apple was heavily criticized for removing such software from its app store in China, at the request of authorities.

Read also: Apple bets on India to reduce its dependence on China

Leave a Comment