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Apple's App Store again hit over LGBTQ+ app censorship

Apple has been called out by digital rights groups for enabling governments around the world to censor LGBTQ+ content, with the App Store allegedly blocking access to specific apps to appease governments.

The report from groups Fight For The Future and the China-based GreatFire claims Apple is blocking apps or content in 152 regional App Stores. The report documents 1,377 cases where LGBTQ+ apps are unavailable in the digital storefronts, with Saudi Arabia's version blocking the most apps with 28.

Mainland China is in second place with 27 of the apps banned in the App Store, followed by the UAE with 25, Ghana with 24, and Nigeria with 23. At the other end of the list, the UK has banned two such apps, while Australia, Canada, and the United States haven't banned any.

According to the groups, most of the App Stores with high numbers of the apps blocked coincide with countries that have poor track records regarding homosexual human rights. Apple is also accused of enabling the censorship, with the examples of Niger and South Korea, where homosexuality is legalized, but still reside in the top ten of countries that have blocked the most LGBTQ+ apps in the App Store.

"Apple is plastering rainbow flags across their marketing operation in the U.S., but in the meantime they are actively helping governments around the world isolate, silence, and oppress LGBTQ+ people," said Fight for the Future Director Evan Greer. Apple's "draconian App Store monopoly" and the inability to install apps outside of the App Store "makes this discrimination and censorship possible."

While the report centers on the App Store, there are still ways for users to access services connected to the banned apps. For example, many offer web-based versions accessible via Safari, and it is also possible to use a VPN service to get around government-designated blocks and geolocking of App Store apps.

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