Apple Restricts AirDrop Tool Reportedly Used By China’s Anti-Lockdown Protestors


Apple on Nov. 9 restricted the use of AirDrop in China, a key communications tool reportedly used by China’s protestors against “zero-COVID” lockdowns, according to business news outlet Quartz.

Public protests erupted in cities throughout China in late November in response to the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) “zero- COVID” lockdown guidelines, the Associated Press reported (AP). It was the most prominent expression of public dissent in decades, according to the outlet.

Past protests against the Chinese government have used Apple’s AirDrop feature to communicate without strict censorship, because the tool enables phones to connect directly, according to Quartz. Apple’s website touts AirDrop as a tool for sharing photos, documents and other files with nearby Apple devices.

The feature has enabled protestors in Hong Kong and on China’s college campuses to coordinate with each other and spread messages to tourists and other protestors, Quartz reported in a Sunday article. AirDrop had been a crack in China’s “Great Firewall” apparatus of information control online, the most sophisticated of its kind, according to Stanford researchers.

When Apple released an updated version of its operating system earlier in November, AirDrop file sharing was restricted to 10 minutes, Bloomberg reported. The restriction was applied to iPhones selling in mainland China, according to Quartz. Apple purportedly plans to make the change a global standard in 2023.

Important context for the rare public protests in China: Apple hobbled AirDrop, a crucial tool for spreading dissent, on iPhones sold in mainland China just two weeks ago.

The Apple update came shortly after Xi Jinping secured a third term as CCP leader, which was reportedly met with smaller protests at the time. November’s protests began after a residential fire in the city of Urumqi killed at least 10 people, in part due to a delayed response from firefighters caused by lockdown barricades, the South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported Friday.... (Read more)

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