Apple Inc., which apologized this month in China after being criticized by state-run media for poor customer service, was ordered by the government to remove obscene content accessed through its online applications store.
The National Office Against Pornographic and Illegal Publications named Apple among 198 websites ordered to remove content, the official Xinhua News Agency reported yesterday, without providing details of the material. Carolyn Wu, an Apple spokeswoman in Beijing, declined to comment on the report.
The order to delete content in Apple’s China online store that offers applications for use on the iPhone and iPad follows more than a dozen stories in the state-run People’s Daily in the past month accusing Apple of arrogance and poor customer service. Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook apologized on April 2 for warranty and repair policies and promised to improve training and support in its biggest market after the U.S.
“Anyone operating in China on that scale needs to realize that government relations are a huge part of doing business,” said Mark Tanner, founder of China Skinny, a Shanghai-based research and marketing agency. “These types of campaigns have a lot of sway with Chinese consumers.”
Programmers are required to sign contracts agreeing not to carry obscene, offensive or defamatory material when they develop apps for Apple, according to guidelines on the Cupertino, California-based company’s website.
Apple and shupeng.com were among nine websites named in the Xinhua report. The government department shut down a total of 21 websites and ordered 175 to delete content, it said.
China, home to more than 564 million Web users, censors the Internet by blocking access to pornography, gambling and content critical of the Communist Party’s rule.
After Cook’s apology, Apple offered to change its customer practice this month to offer full replacements of older iPhones experiencing problems. It also vowed to improve service and monitoring of stores authorized to sell its products in China.