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Meta’s WhatsApp and Threads have been removed from the China App Store by Apple.

Apple CEO Tim Cook looks on following a conversation on mental health, during a spousal program on the last day of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders’ Week at Apple Park in San Francisco, California, on November 17, 2023.

Apple on Friday said it pulled several messaging apps like Meta’s WhatsApp and Threads from the App Store in China after the nation’s government ordered the removal, citing security concerns. The move escalates tensions between the U.S. and China over technology and other policies. Congress has been fast-tracking legislation to push TikTok’s Chinese parent company, ByteDance, to divest the social media app. Other messaging platforms like Signal and Telegram were also removed from China’s App Store.

The strained relationship between the two countries has led Apple to diversify its supply chain outside of China by expanding manufacturing operations in nations like India and Vietnam. China has a history of restricting access to U.S. online content, with platforms like WhatsApp and Threads previously operating through Apple’s App Store. Although less popular than WeChat in China, their removal limits communication channels outside the country.

Apple’s compliance with Chinese laws, despite disagreement, reflects their commitment to operating within regulatory frameworks. Meta, Apple, Signal, and Telegram have faced challenges due to geopolitical tensions impacting their operations. Requests for comments from Meta have been directed to Apple, with no immediate responses from Signal and Telegram.

In response to China’s directive, Apple stated, “We are obligated to follow the laws in the countries where we operate, even when we disagree.” The Cyberspace Administration of China ordered the apps’ removal based on national security concerns. The House could vote on new legislation soon, aiming to address technology-related disputes between the U.S. and China.

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