January 4, 2017 Last Updated 3:31 pm

Apple pulls The New York Times apps from the Chinese App Store

The English and Chinese language apps were pulled Dec. 23, but first reported today – and were pulled, Apple said, because the apps were ‘in violation of local regulations’

The New York Times revealed this afternoon that Apple had pulled its apps from the Chinese iTunes App Store. The action took place on December 23, but the paper only today revealed the move by Apple.

The NYT had both English and Chinese language apps, both of which were pulled after Apple said due to violations of local regulations, though Apple did not specify what regulations.

“We have been informed that the app is in violation of local regulations,” Apple spokesman Fred Sainz was quoted in the Times report. “As a result, the app must be taken down off the China App Store. When this situation changes, the App Store will once again offer the New York Times app for download in China.”

The NYT has had troubles with the Chinese government, which has blocked the paper’s website since 2012.

“The request by the Chinese authorities to remove our apps is part of their wider attempt to prevent readers in China from accessing independent news coverage by The New York Times of that country, coverage which is no different from the journalism we do about every other country in the world,” Times spokeswoman Eileen Murphy said in the NYT’s own report.

Read more on NYTimes.com

This is the kind of thing digital publishers have worried about for the past few years. Just what would a major tech company do when forced to make a choice between complying with a foreign government request to censor a news organization, or adhering to US laws and customs? Would business interests trump all else?

Apple, unfortunately, has had a history of making illogical decisions regarding apps in the App Store. In the early days, several editorial apps were rejected including one by Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Mark Fiore. Apple’s App Store also rejected apps from Playboy, while allowing hard core apps into the store from Russian developers.

Much of the problems with app approval were years ago, however, and few controversies have arisen since.

But this is troubling. If Apple is willing to pull apps from the Chinese App Store, and not provide a reason for it beyond its vague explanation, would it pull apps at the request of a US administration? One shutters to think what Apple would do.

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