Apple has closed down its book and film services in China, apparently as a result of new regulations governing online content provided by foreign companies.
The company has closed down its iBooks and iTunes Movies activities in mainland China. They were only launched in the market seven months ago, the first time that components of the Apple entertainment ecosystem had been allowed to operate in China.
It appears that the order to take them offline came from the media regulator, the State Administration for Press Publication Radio Film and Television. The company has not confirmed this information, though it is being reported by media including the New York Times.
Apple gave no explanation for the shutdown, but said that it would aim to restore services in China “as soon as possible.”
In February new regulations were announced by SAPPRFT and the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology that introduced new rules limiting foreign online media and Sino-foreign joint ventures in the online space. The rules came into effect last month.
In order to operate in China, foreign companies would be required to use servers located in China and possibly provide so-called ‘backdoor’ access for China’s security services. Apple recently faced down the U.S. security services and refused to crack its own code to help unlock an iPhone that may have been useful in a terrorist investigation.
It is not clear if the Apple Pay micro payment system, which are becoming widespread in China, are affected.
The Apple shutdown and the recent regulatory additions appear to be in line with a growing climate of media restriction in China. These have been matched by growing use of legal and technical solutions to quash dissent.
China already operates one of the world’s most restrictive online environments and employs tens of thousands of censors to operate what is nicknamed “The Great Firewall of China.”
At the World Internet Forum in December, Xi presented a different view of the global shift online. Presenting a version of the Internet with Chinese characteristics, he said that all countries are free to regulate the Web within their territories as they see fit.
A hallmark of the presidency of Xi Jinping has been a widespread anti-corruption campaign. That and the slowing down of the economy have inevitably angered some portions of Chinese society.