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Apple bows to China, starts enforcing App Store rules

Apple has begun requiring new apps to have a licence from the Chinese government before they can be added to the App Store.

China announced its new app laws in August 2023, saying that developers must be either based in the country, or partnered with one that is. There are then privacy issues over where users' personal data is held, but the law primarily gives the Chinese government total control over what apps can be sold in its country.

Previously, it's been believed that China implemented the new law specifically so that it could crack down on social media firms including Facebook and Instagram. Such services are already banned online, but could be accessed via apps.

Apple resisted the law change, to the point of reportedly having staff meet with Chinese officials to object to it. Even following this, Apple still held out despite Chinese protests.

According to Reuters, however, Apple has now begun complying. As of Friday, September 29, 2023, Apple has required developers to submit their Internet Content Provider (ICP) filing when submitting new apps.

China has allowed a grace period for developers to comply, but for new apps that ended in September 2023. Existing apps have until March 2024.

Those existing apps of course include social media ones. With China banning, for instance, Facebook online, it's unlikely that the country's regulators will issue a licence for its app.