China Targets Live-Streaming Apps in New Apple Encroachment

  • Beijing regulators want to quiz Apple over apps sold in store
  • Apple is facing mounting pushback from Chinese regulators

Chinese Regulators Target Apple's App Store

Chinese regulators will demand that Apple Inc. strengthen the review process for live-streaming applications it sells in its App Store, the latest in a series of encroachments on the iPhone maker’s services in Asia’s largest economy.

The city of Beijing’s Cyberspace Administration is summoning Apple to ask that it subject Chinese news and live-streaming services to more stringent app reviews to ensure they conform to regulations, the agency said Tuesday in a statement on its WeChat social media account. Local operators Toutiao, Huoshanzhibo and Huajiao have failed to comply with legal requirements, the agency said. All three offer apps on the Chinese edition of Apple’s App Store.

“These services lack rules on verifying information, dealing with emergency situations and guaranteeing their technology,” the regulator said. “They also have significant loopholes in supervising live-streaming content, managing viewers, verifying the identities of users and dealing with complaints from the public.” Apple spokesman Josh Rosenstock didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Unlike Alphabet Inc.’s Google, whose Play Store for mobile apps is banned in China, Apple’s App Store is open to Chinese consumers and helped drive surging sales growth from services in 2016. Yet Apple has encountered mounting resistance from Chinese regulators. It was forced to shutter its iTunes Movies and iBooks services last year, just six months after they were first permitted to operate, and lost a series of patent and trademark disputes to little known Chinese rivals.

In return, Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook has sought to improve Apple’s standing in China with a series of investments. He is opening new research and development facilities in the country, and bought a $1 billion stake in Didi Chuxing, China’s biggest ride-hailing service.

China announced new regulations for mobile developers last year which required them to verify users’ identities with information such as mobile phone numbers, as well as to monitor and report postings that contained banned contents to the relevant authorities. App makers have to keep a record of user logs for 60 days, the rules stipulated.

When developers submit their product to the App Store, they are subjected to a review process that evaluates quality and tries to ensure there are no bugs. China’s State Administration of Radio, Film and Television already requires approval for new mobile games for the App Store, Sina reported in June.

— With assistance by Zhe Huang

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