Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Chinese web users have criticized Apple after the company pulled an iPhone app which enabled users to bypass firewalls and access restricted internet sites. The developers of the free app, OpenDoor, reportedly wrote to Apple protesting against the move. China blocks users from accessing many websites and strictly polices internet access and censors web users on sensitive issues as Tiananmen, Tibet and Falun Gong followers.
So far Apple has not released official statements on the matter. The American based multinational corporation asks iPhone app developers to ensure that their apps "comply with all legal requirements in any location where they are made available to users".
Chinese bloggers and citizen journalists told that Cupertino had taken away one of the tools which internet users in China relied on to circumvent the country's great firewall. Many internet users all over the world were disappointed by the move by Apple.
OpenDoor is a browser app that reroutes its user's traffic through its own servers to circumvent any blocks imposed by the user's Internet Service Provider or the Great Firewall (GFW). Judging by its Facebook page, the tool is popular wherever the Internet is restricted: users from Iran to Pakistan sing its praises. Lead developer, who wishes to remain anonymous, states that the tool has been downloaded about 800,000 times, and that approximately a third of the downloads stem from China.
Apple removed the app because it "includes content that is illegal in China". "It is unclear to us how a simple browser app could include illegal contents, since it's the user's own choosing of what websites to view," the creator said. "Using the same definition, wouldn't all browser apps, including Apple's own Safari and Google's Chrome, include illegal contents?"
Internet experts say that Apple has taken their willingness to self-censor to a "whole new level". It is not the first time that Apple has removed apps from its China store for content that it deemed "illegal in China," such as a news app by NTD (New Tang Dynasty), a U.S.-based television broadcaster founded by Falun Gong members, and an app that displayed banned books on Tibet by Wang Lixiong. Apple is not the only Western company in China that has struggled to balance its business interests and corporate responsibility. In 2006 and 2007, Yahoo faced congressional hearings in the US and a storm of criticism after it released user information that landed political dissidents in jail.