Apple rejects Hong Kong protest map from App Store, relents under pressure

apple hk protest map hkmaplive
HKmap.live, showing live information about protests and police activity in Hong Kong. The app is used by protestors and was recently removed then reinstated from the Apple App Store.

Amid the pro-democracy protests currently going on in Hong Kong, technology has been used in various ways to try to censor and spread misinformation about the protestors, their beliefs, and their tactics. The protestors have used technology of their own, however, such as the HKmap.live app, which shows information about protests and police activity to let protestors know which areas are safe to assemble in and where they can expect resistance or violence from the police.

The map was available through web browsers, but the developers also wanted to offer it as a standalone mobile app. However, earlier this week Apple rejected the app from the iOS App Store, preventing iPhone users from downloading it. According to the app’s developers, Apple said it contained content that “facilitates, enables, and encourages an activity that is not legal… Specifically, the app allowed users to evade law enforcement.” As the developers pointed out, that meant Apple should equally well ban the Waze app from the App Store as it notifies people when there is a traffic camera ahead, thus allowing them to evade law enforcement.

Apple received significant criticism for the decision to reject the app from the App Store. Not only did it seem like an arbitrary decision, but it also actively endangered the lives of protestors who were reliant on the map for information about the extremely violent actions of the police. Apple has previously been accused of acquiescing to China’s censorship and human rights abuses, such as when it agreed to ban all VPN apps from the App Store in China.

Following the outcry, Apple decided to admit the HKmap.live app to the App Store yesterday, where it is now available to download. The app developers were happy with this outcome, saying that they believed the decision was more of a bureaucratic issue rather than a political decision and writing, “We understand @Apple have many business considerations, but since they already make thing right I don’t see any point to keep pressing.”

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