Pressure builds on Apple’s ‘speech control’ policies, and its relationship with China

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By CASEY HARPER | THE CENTER SQUARE

U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., is pressing Apple CEO Tim Cook about his relationship with China and Apple’s “speech control” policies in the United States.

“I write regarding Apple’s ongoing collaboration with the totalitarian Chinese government,” Hawley wrote in a letter sent to Cook on Tuesday. “Your continued dependency on Chinese labor not only undermines the interests of the American economy and its workers, but has once again led your company to crack down on speech at the Chinese Communist Party’s behest. Apple’s activities in China are unconscionable and present substantial material risks to your stakeholders.”

Online videos show protesters in China rallying against the Chinese Communist Party and its strict Covid-19 policies that include detainment camps for the infected.

“I urge you to take meaningful steps to end operations in China and to reshore production to the United States,” Hawley wrote. “Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the Chinese Communist Party has subjected the Chinese people to draconian public health measures. During the past week, dissatisfaction with the nation’s so-called zero-COVID policy came to a head: from Beijing to Shanghai and Urumqi, citizens took to the streets to protest and voice their dissent. This included demonstrations at a Foxconn factory in the city of Zhengzhou, one of the largest manufacturers of Apple’s iPhone. After enduring weeks of stringent pandemic mitigation measures, workers protested and clashed with Chinese law enforcement. Videos of these confrontations, including shocking images of workers being beaten and kicked by officials in hazmat suits, were widely circulated on social media and in the press.”

Apple has also come under fire for reportedly making it harder for Chinese protesters to use Apple services to keep them from getting monitored and caught by the Chinese government.

“To make matters worse, your company appears to be actively supporting the Chinese government’s brutal crackdown,” Hawley wrote. “For example, public reports indicate that Apple, through a recent software update for iPhones in China, has modified the AirDrop function to make it more difficult for protestors to use this function to evade censorship and surveillance. Unconscionable though this decision may be, it is not surprising: under your leadership, Apple has time and again assisted the Chinese Communist Party in surveilling and suppressing the basic human rights of the Chinese people.”

The letter also comes after billionaire and Twitter CEO Elon Musk claimed that Apple had threatened to remove the Twitter app from the app store.

“Apple has mostly stopped advertising on Twitter. Do they hate free speech in America?” Musk tweeted Monday. “Apple has also threatened to withhold Twitter from its App Store, but won’t tell us why. Who else has Apple censored?”

Hawley echoed that sentiment in his letter to Cook.

“At the same time, it appears that Apple might be importing this model of speech control to the United States: reports indicate that your company might deplatform Twitter from the App Store as a consequence of the free speech policies implemented by new ownership,” Hawley wrote.

Apple did not respond to a request for comment.

Musk said on Twitter that if Apple does stop Twitter from being available in the Apple App Store, Musk may pursue developing his own smart phone. Later, Musk and Cook had a meeting in which they cleared up the misunderstanding.

“Good conversation. Among other things, we resolved the misunderstanding about Twitter potentially being removed from the App Store. Tim was clear that Apple never considered doing so,” Musk wrote on Twitter.

He also wrote, “This is a battle for the future of civilization. If free speech is lost even in America, tyranny is all that lies ahead.”

Donald Trump Jr. noted, “There are more people on Twitter condemning @elonmusk for trying to prioritize free-speech then there are condemning China for trying to shut it down in an incredibly draconian fashion… and somehow it’s Elon & others who believe in freedom who are the fascists. Crazy times.”

Casey Harper is a Senior Reporter for the Washington, D.C. Bureau. He previously worked for The Daily Caller, The Hill, and Sinclair Broadcast Group. A graduate of Hillsdale College, Casey’s work has also appeared in Fox News, Fox Business, and USA Today.

15 COMMENTS

  1. I suspect that if/when we are able to peel away enough layers of the onion regarding “big tech” we will find behavior that is absolutely shocking in a western democracy. If the Left was serious about actual “threats to our democracy” they should look at Mr. Cook at Apple, Mr. Zuckerberg at Facebook and Mr. Pichai at Google.

    • It’s called “fascism”, JMark. Which is literally and by definition the government and (big) business working together, to advance the power of each.
      .
      Welcome to the land of the meek, and the home of the slave.

  2. How can Apple claim to be an American company and support the most dangerous enemy of the United States? Maximum pressure needs to be applied by public and private entities until they have removed all ties to the CCP. Remove all factories from Chinese held territories and remove all business ties. If the Chinese want Apple products, let them purchase them on the open market. Nothing less is acceptable.

  3. “Here at Apple, we are 100% behind having things put inside you, but if you refuse we will ignore charters on human rights and collaborate with people forcing things inside you. PS, we put Chinese malware onto our servers and give cloud information to the FBI without a warrant.”
    Tim Cook, and not the Apple legal team, probably, check your EULA

  4. Apple is the victim, along with MANY other companies, of being sucked in by China’s low costs and exceptional capability, and then being held hostage by the very same factors when China turns the tables. It’s a classic Honey Trap. Along with many others, Apple is doing all it can do escape by relocating manufacturing to other countries. That does include the US to a degree, but just remember, if you want your iPhone made in the US, it will cost 2-3 times as much. Just sayin’

    • They’re overpriced as it is, and I have avoided buying anything Apple all my life. It hasn’t hurt me one iota to not have any Apple products. They have their own method of “trapping” themselves, and it was all by design, which is why I’ve never allowed myself to be sucked into buying their products. Now, however, there’s much more reason to avoid that company and their products.

      • Most non-tech people happily immerse themselves in the Apple ecosystem. Why? Because it works great, fills their needs, and isn’t very complicated. Sure, it may cost a little more, but the safety, satisfaction, and just plain fun that comes along with using it makes it worth it. And by the way, their excellent design and manufacturing processes result in products that last longer and require far less support than other Windows/Linux boxes. Trapped? Yes, but in a nice way.

  5. Very few companies consider themselves to be “American” anymore. Beginning in the 1970s, as they expanded their operations and sales offshore they found out that they had to kowtow to local governments’ political demands in order to stay in business. Many companies realized they could make more money by bribing local officials in third world countries rather than comply with US regulations and practices at home. While most corporations still maintain their headquarters in the US, their hearts are now clearly elsewhere.

    When Trump called them out on this (e.g. by overturning NAFTA), he quickly made many powerful enemies.

  6. So all you folks with Apple IPhones need to remove yourself from a company that is clearly in bed with China. Get rid of them. They got you all hooked on their bs and now it’s going to affect your speech and what is available to you. The phone that has literally taken over the world, is now showing you its ugly side. Will you do something or just keep using it?
    Real change comes from not buying a product… Best form of protesting!

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