Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
It’s your last chance to make a tax-deductible donation to CounterPunch in 2017. Help us gear up to fight the status-quo in 2018! Every dollar counts!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Apple’s China Surrender

by

“This is very dangerous precedent which can lead to same moves in countries like UAE etc. where government control access to internet.”

-Star VPN, Twitter, Jul 30, 2017

Caving in for the profit margin; stripping a function for the sake of the state rather than the customer. That’s the Apple approach, nudged along by political expediency and the heckling of the police state. In China, the company has pruned back its virtual private networks. It would have delighted the party hacks in Beijing, suspicious of any effort to subvert the censorship regime which has come to be called the Great Firewall.

As Emily Parker dourly notes, “Doing business in China requires playing by Chinese rules, and American tech companies have a long history of complying with Chinese censorship.” Apple has just been more enthusiastic than their counterparts. Earlier this year, it went as far as to remove New York Times apps from its Chinese store. How good of them to do so.

The words from Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook, have been discouraging for the technology battlers and those keen to run rings around authoritarian regimes. Cook, in fact, would rather get into bed with them. “We would obviously rather not remove the apps,” he explained earlier in the week. “But like we do in other countries, we follow the law wherever we do business.” The law, it would seem, good or bad.

As for the Chinese Communist Party, action on VPN technology has been placed at the top of the agenda ahead of the party congress. Operating such services now verges between inconvenience and hazard, given that authorities must approve them.

Such actions on the part of Apple further dispel the idea that accessing the Internet remains a sacred right and, it can be said, rite of passage into the digital age. The United Nations went so far as to declare it as such last year, highlighting the importance of “applying a comprehensive human rights-based approach when providing and expanding access to the internet for the internet to be open, accessible and nurtured.”

Countries may well be happy to front a view that accords with this, but states are far from happy permitting their public untrammelled use. Bollards are needed; security measures required. A free using public, in short, cannot be trusted by what it can find.

To the relief of such states, Cook is happy to comply. As, in fact, are other companies wishing to sacrifice the liberties of their users for their profit margins. Notoriously, Google bowed to the wishes of Chinese authorities in 2006 to censor search results, conduct which naturally gave the VPN drive a boost.

In 2005, by way of a dire utilitarian example, Yahoo furnished Chinese authorities with information on a journalist, Shi Tao, that led to a 10 year prison sentence. The sin there was sending an anonymous post to a website located in the US that contained, so it was claimed, state secrets.

In what was something of a dark year, Microsoft similarly got into line in censoring its Chinese-language wed portal. Business, after all, was business, and the tech giant wasn’t going to miss out on a vast market. As global sales and marketing director at the time, Adam Sohn, explained, the company was cooperating with its Chinese business partner to police inappropriate language.

When queried about what this entailed, Sohn ducked. “I don’t have access to the list at this point so I can’t really comment specifically on what’s there.” A clue about the list came in a report from Agence France-Presse claiming that bloggers were not permitted to post such terms as “human rights” or “democracy” on MSN spaces.

Sohn’s Mephistophelian explanation was simple. The company could still do business in China, despite the shackles, while helping the very populace they were complicit in hoodwinking. It all came down to how the services were used. “Even with the filters, we’re helping millions of people communicate, share stories, share photographs and build relationships. For us, that is the key point here.” Be safe, innocuous, non-political and insipid.

In 2006, the major giants doing business in the rich pearl of Cathay faced the music in a Congressional hearing. As California Democrat and house representative Tom Lantos claimed at the time, directing his comments to Yahoo, Google, Microsoft and Cisco, “I do not understand how your corporate leadership sleeps at night.”

What such conduct betrays, sleepless or otherwise, is that standards of resistance from these companies varies. Apple has been clamouring against efforts made in the US to unlock its iPhone technology. The FBI faced a defiant response when its order to access the phone of the San Bernardino shooter was frustrated. It is worth noting, as matter or proportion, that the shooter was behind the slaying of 14 people.

Cook would have none of this, seeing any comparisons as needlessly fatuous. “In the US case, the law in the US supported us.” Rather weakly, he suggested that the company had “to abide by [the law] in both cases. That doesn’t mean we don’t state our point of view in the appropriate way, we always do that.” Well, not always, and certainly not when it is inappropriate to sales. Dissidents, be wary.

More articles by:

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

Weekend Edition
December 15, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
What’s Not Happening With Mr. Jones
Timothy M. Gill
The Height of Racial Resentment: White Cops
Andrew Levine
Democrats Have Much to Learn and the Odious Have Much to Teach Them
Luciana Bohne
Operation Jerusalem Capital: Second Balfour Declaration or Arab-Israeli NATO?
Anthony DiMaggio
#MeToo: Women are Speaking Out, Are We Listening?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Out Walked Monk
Ann Robertson - Bill Leumer
The Demoralizing Impact of Trump, But Hope Has Arrived
Samantha Paez – Sandra de los Santos
The Most Dangerous Place for Mexican Women is in the Streets
Martin Billheimer
Assassins of the Image: the CIA as Cultural Gatekeeper
Jérôme Duval
From Slave Trade to Debt: Occupation Disguised as “Discovery”
Vijay Prashad
The October Revolution
John Wight
The Grenfell Fire UK Establishment Circus
Steve Martinot
Twisted Thinking: Police Militarization in Berkeley
Robert Fantina
Juvenile Delinquency in U.S. Government
Dave Lindorff
Stupidity and Blindness Have Destroyed Whatever Democracy the US Ever Had
Pete Dolack
You are Working Harder and Getting Paid Less
Joseph Natoli
The Axioms of the Other
Susan Babbitt
Why Don Quixote?
Ralph Nader
What Does Trump Mean by “Make America Great Again”?
Ramzy Baroud
Towards a New Palestinian Beginning
Binoy Kampmark
Escaping Reality: Roy Moore and the Rage of Decency
Mark Luskus
Corporate Interests Are Warping the Internet
Brian Terrell
A Story of Two Blockades: New York City and Yemen
Ron Jacobs
Sinking in the Swamp
Brian Cloughley
Prepare! Pursue!! Prevail!!!
Matthew Stevenson
Into Africa: The Tanzania-Zambia Train to Nowhere
Jill Richardson
We Agree Assault is Bad, Now Let’s Agree on How to Punish It
Jeremy Corbyn
The Greatest Threats to Our Common Humanity
Walter Clemens – Stephen Advocate
The Amoral Code of America’s Dirty Old Men
Sheldon Richman
Trump & Co.’s Vile Anti-Immigrationism
Jessicah Pierre
Trump’s Cruel Policy on Haitian Refugees
George Wuerthner
Water Rights or Water Privileges?
Nick Pemberton
What I Learned in Ghana 
Missy Comley Beattie
It’s Capitalism
Tom H. Hastings
Stop Trump movement
Thomas Knapp
The Real Internet Censorship Threat
Robert Koehler
Peace on the Far Side of Nuclear Weapons
Kary Love
Christmas Letter to Jesus
Tom Clifford
China: From the Treasure Fleet to One Belt, One Road
Charles R. Larson
Trump’s Blueprint for State Capture
M. Shadee Malaklou
Jay-Z’s 4:44 Moves Black Radical Thought Through and Beyond the Classroom
Michael Dickinson
What About Our Debts, Pope Francis?
Phil Rockstroh
What Was Verifiably Great About America: Fragments of a Memoir Set to a Musical Soundtrack
David Yearsley
Froberger’s Musical Therapy
Edward Curtin
A Man Turns
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail