Apple has banned a crowd-sourced application that allows people to track protests and police activity in Hong Kong, stating that such app encourages illegal activity. Here’s what the big tech company told the creators of HKmap.live on Tuesday, before pulling the app from their iOS store:
"Your app contains content – or facilitates, enables, and encourages an activity – that is not legal … Specifically, the app allowed users to evade law enforcement."@Apple assume our user are lawbreakers and therefore evading law enforcement, which is clearly not the case.
— HKmap.live 全港抗爭即時地圖 HK Protest Live Map (@hkmaplive) October 1, 2019
Many people, the makers of the app included, have argued that HKmap.live simply allows people to note locations. This is something common in countless other apps (i.e. Waze), and yet, Apple chose to ban this one in particular.
Trying to reason them, no reply yet. Wonder they will ban Waze for evading traffic cams lol.
— HKmap.live 全港抗爭即時地圖 HK Protest Live Map (@hkmaplive) October 2, 2019
While the app’s developers continue to believe that the ban is not censorship, but rather just a bureaucratic error, techno-sociologist Prof Zeynep Tufekci commented on Twitter that perhaps Apple is just “sucking up to China”:
Apple rejects a map that only displays Hong Kong locations as illegal? Maybe this really is Apple sucking up to China rather than f bureaucratic screw-up? Hkmap.live only reports locations: road closures, tear gas, police presence. IT REPORTS LOCATIONS AND DOES NOTHING ELSE.
Some Hongkongers shared on Twitter that their families use the app to avoid areas where tear gas was being used.
If by some reason you’ve missed why the protests are even happening, let us explain. The Hong Kong legislature proposed a new bill, which would make extraditing people to China from the city easier. So, it was expected that Hongkongers would start protesting against China’s growing influence over the semi-autonomous province. The matters got worse when the legislature refused to withdraw the bill, and even used harsh police tactics to clamp down on the unrest. Unsurprisingly, this just put oil to the fire and the situation escalated even further.
As Hong Kong protesters are now in their fifth month fighting for their right to exist autonomously from the Chinese mainland, the situation is understandably growing more intense. However, the Chinese government seems determined to put a stop to the protests without using military intervention, since it will most certainly make the rest of the world turn its back on the country, as in did back in 1989, following the Tiananmen Square massacre.
Apple hasn’t yet commented on the claims that the company banned the app due to a request from the Chinese authorities. Video-sharing platform TikTok (the owners of which are Chinese) also faces accusations that they are censoring protest-related content.
The application is still available on the Google Play store.