Apple limits file sharing for Chinese iPhone users after anti-government protest
Apple restricted file sharing to Chinese iPhone users Thursday, a month after reports that anti-government protesters used the function to share digital posts with strangers.
Smartphones sold by Apple in China can now receive files from non-contacts for only 10 minutes through the AirDrop mechanism before turning the feature off automatically. AirDrop had no previous time limit.
The update, which was rolled out in the operating system released overnight, means iPhone users will have to intentionally turn on AirDrop shortly before sharing the file to receive it.
This makes it virtually impossible to receive unexpected files from strangers.
The change comes after people used AirDrop to spread leaflets critical of the Chinese Communist Party in crowded public spaces after a man hung banners on a bridge in Beijing last month calling for the removal of the “national dictator and traitor Xi Jinping” and an end to China’s COVID-free policy.
Chinese watchdogs quickly removed online videos and posts referring to the protest, while hundreds of users’ accounts were banned on the popular payment and chat app WeChat after speaking out about the rare act of rebellion.
Apple did not immediately respond to France Press agency Asked for comment, it didn’t give a reason for this specific change, but said in its update description to users that the operating system now “includes bug fixes and security updates.”
Apple phones sold outside of China do not appear to be affected by the update, while iPhones sold in China display the limit regardless of which country the user’s App Store account is in.
The California-based tech giant has previously faced criticism for appearing to make concessions to the authoritarian Chinese government, including opening a data center in the country as well as removing an app in 2019 that allowed pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong to track police.
Some social media users in China on Thursday hailed the iPhone update as a positive step in blocking unwanted messages from strangers, with one Weibo user saying the change would “significantly reduce the likelihood of iPhone users being harassed.”
Only a few questioned why the job was only published on Chinese iPhones, with one Weibo commenter making a joke about Apple CEO Tim Cook’s friendship with Chinese authorities: “So is Tim Cook a party member or not?”
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