Friday, June 14, 2024

Pressure Builds on Apple over Twitter Dispute, ‘Crackdown’ on Chinese Protesters

'Apple's activities in China are unconscionable and present substantial material risks to your stakeholders...'

(The Center Square) Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., is pressing Apple CEO Tim Cook about his relationship with China and Apple’s “speech control” policies in the U.S.

“I write regarding Apple’s ongoing collaboration with the totalitarian Chinese government,” Hawley wrote in a letter sent to Cook Tuesday.

“Your continued dependency on Chinese labor not only undermines the interests of the American economy and its workers, but has once again led your company to crack down on speech at the Chinese Communist Party’s behest,” he continued. “Apple’s activities in China are unconscionable and present substantial material risks to your stakeholders.”

Online videos show protesters in China rallying against the Chinese Communist Party and its strict COVID-19 policies that include detainment camps for the infected.

“I urge you to take meaningful steps to end operations in China and to reshore production to the United States,” Hawley wrote.

He said the Chinese Communist Party’s draconian health measures have been in place for nearly three years, since the pandemic first emerged from a likely lab leak at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

“During the past week, dissatisfaction with the nation’s so-called zero-COVID policy came to a head: from Beijing to Shanghai and Urumqi, citizens took to the streets to protest and voice their dissent,” Hawley wrote. “This included demonstrations at a Foxconn factory in the city of Zhengzhou, one of the largest manufacturers of Apple’s iPhone.”

Videos showed the clashes between common citizens and government officials, “including shocking images of workers being beaten and kicked by officials in hazmat suits [that] were widely circulated on social media and in the press,” Hawley noted.

Apple has also come under fire for reportedly making it harder for Chinese protesters to use Apple services to keep them from getting monitored and caught by the Chinese government.

“To make matters worse, your company appears to be actively supporting the Chinese government’s brutal crackdown,” Hawley wrote.

“For example, public reports indicate that Apple, through a recent software update for iPhones in China, has modified the AirDrop function to make it more difficult for protestors to use this function to evade censorship and surveillance,” he said. “Unconscionable though this decision may be, it is not surprising: under your leadership, Apple has time and again assisted the Chinese Communist Party in surveilling and suppressing the basic human rights of the Chinese people.”

The letter also comes after billionaire and Twitter CEO Elon Musk claimed that Apple had threatened to remove the Twitter app from the app store.

“Apple has mostly stopped advertising on Twitter. Do they hate free speech in America?” Musk tweeted Monday. “Apple has also threatened to withhold Twitter from its App Store, but won’t tell us why. Who else has Apple censored?”

Hawley echoed that sentiment in his letter to Cook.

“At the same time, it appears that Apple might be importing this model of speech control to the United States: reports indicate that your company might deplatform Twitter from the App Store as a consequence of the free speech policies implemented by new ownership,” Hawley wrote.

Apple did not respond to a request for comment.

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