Earlier this week, Apple took down over 100 generative AI apps and ChatGPT-related apps from its mainland China App Store in response to new Chinese government regulations to manage generative AI technologies. These regulations, introduced in draft form by seven government regulatory bodies, including the Cyberspace Administration of China, are scheduled to be implemented on August 15. The regulations mandate that software developers promote content adhering to “core socialist values” and avoid offering products that generate false information or threaten national security. This move is part of the Chinese government’s efforts to exert more control over the internet and related technologies, targeting areas such as generative AI, cyberbullying, independent content creators, and mobile phone use by minors.
Types of Apps removed
Among the apps removed, Spark, an app developed by iFlyTek that provides ChatGPT-style services, was taken down despite its high-profile launch on June 29. Another popular app, ChatGAi Plus, which offered chatbot, AI translation, and writing services, was ranked 9th on the China iOS app store’s paid app chart before its removal.
Apple’s explanation and developer response
Apple cited tighter regulations on deep synthesis technologies and generative AI as the reason for removing the apps, stating that they contained content that violated Chinese laws. The company sent notifications to developers about the removals. One of the developers behind the app “OpenCat” confirmed that their product, a macOS and iOS native client using OpenAI API, was no longer available for download in China due to policy issues. They received a notification from Apple, explaining that their app was associated with ChatGPT and lacked the necessary permits to operate in China. Removing their app from the Chinese App Store could result in a substantial reduction in revenue for them.
Apple’s Past App store removals
Due to government pressure, Apple has faced criticism for removing apps from its Chinese App Store. This latest purge of generative AI apps is part of Apple’s series of similar actions in response to Chinese government demands. The company has previously removed thousands of games and other apps for various reasons, leading to accusations of compliance with Chinese authorities.
Chinese Twitter reactions
Reactions on Chinese Twitter ranged from questioning the lack of diverse governance for innovative products to expressing concerns about the impact on innovation. Some users pointed out that the absence of certain content might be linked to political sensitivities or the lack of incorporation of specific ideologies like “Xi Jinping Thought.”
Apple’s decision to remove generative AI apps from its Chinese App Store responds to new government regulations on managing such technologies. While this move complies with Chinese authorities’ demands, it has raised concerns about censorship and its potential impact on the country’s innovation and independent content creators. As the August 15 deadline for the new regulations approaches, tech companies operating in China will need to navigate the regulatory landscape to ensure compliance while continuing to provide valuable services to their users.