Major tech companies like Apple and Google have managed to get caught in the crossfire of the Hong Kong pro-democracy protests as China criticized the companies for hosting apps that helped protestors avoid police and road closures or let users role play as protestors. Each of the companies, which released statements on the controversy, have removed the apps after facing trouble from China in recent weeks. The controversy comes at a time when Hong Kong is facing nearly 20 straight weeks of mass protests, some of which have gotten quite violent.
Apple removed an app this week that helped users in Hong Kong identify and locate police officers and road closures during and before protests. The app, called HKmap.live, was at first rejected from the App Store over its ability to give protestors the advantage of being able to locate and ambush police officers in protest. Many Chinese media outlets and leaders criticized the app, arguing that it posed a threat to public safety. The App Store revoked its rejection, allowing the app to go live on the store, but changed its mind this week in the wake of major criticism from China—a country which not only represents a major consumer market, but is where all but one Apple product is assembled.
“We created the App Store to be a safe and trusted place to discover apps,” said a statement released by Apple, according to The Verge. “We have learned that an app, HKmap.live, has been used in ways that endanger law enforcement and residents in Hong Kong. Many concerned customers in Hong Kong have contacted us about this app and we immediately began investigating it. The app displays police locations and we have verified with the Hong Kong Cybersecurity and Technology Crime Bureau that the app has been used to target and ambush police, threaten public safety, and criminals have used it to victimize residents in areas where they know there is no law enforcement. This app violates our guidelines and local laws, and we have removed it from the App Store,” continued the statement.
Google Removes Game App That Trivializes Issue
Google removed an app from its app store this week that was also related to the Hong Kong protests. A gaming app that let players role play as protestors. The company claimed that the app attempted to capitalize off of sensitive topics and was, for this reason, against the terms and conditions imposed upon developers that wish to upload content into the app store. The app, which was called “Revolution Of Our Times,” let users role play as violent protestors and make in-app purchases for things like weapons and other tools that could be used to incite mass violence in a protest.
Apple, which was forced to close its stores just a couple of months ago as mass protests in Hong Kong became violent and posed a risk to the store fronts in the country, has more or less stayed out of the controversy since it started back in June. Other companies like the NBA and Cathay Pacific have been caught in the crossfire of the protests in recent months as well.