Apple accused of censoring product embossing
Apple accused of censoring product embossing

A new report from Brussels-based community engagement platform CitizenLab shows that Apple is looking at what words and phrases customers in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan can engrave on products.

The iPhone maker has long said it filters copy requests to avoid racist language, vulgarity or intellectual property infringement. However, CitizenLab said the company's restrictions on political references, particularly from Hong Kong and Taiwan, went beyond legal requirements.

The author of the report wrote, “We have found that some of the political censorship provided by Apple in China is permeating Hong Kong and Taiwan. This oversight goes beyond the company’s legal obligations in Hong Kong. We know that there is no legal basis for political censorship of content in Taiwan.”

The company did not provide a complete list of prohibited terms by region. However, CitizenLab's analysis found that the company filtered 1,045 keywords in China, compared to 542 in Hong Kong, 397 in Taiwan, 206 in Canada, 192 in Japan, and 170 in the United States.

Although political terms are not filtered out in the US, Canada or Japan, roughly half of the keywords that are banned in China and Hong Kong are political.

CitizenLab's analysis relates specifically to AirTags and iPad burning requirements. However, he noted that the only difference in the product's limitations was in the length of the keywords and small words.

Keywords filtered in China are politics (politics), resistance (resistance), democracy (wave of democracy), and human rights (human rights).

For AirTag registration, which is limited to four characters, Chinese agents are not allowed to use the four numbers 8964, which refers to the Tiananmen Square protests of June 4, 1989.

Citizen Lab said China's strict censorship system is infiltrating Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Apple accused of censoring product embossing

Conditions prohibited in Hong Kong include double (dual universal suffrage), umbrella (umbrella), and freedom of the press (freedom of the press).

Apple customers in Taiwan should not mention high-ranking CPC members such as Sun Chunlan (Sun Chunlan) or the banned religious movement Falun Gong (Falungong).

CitizenLab noted that the company has no legal obligation to conduct such political oversight in Taiwan. However, the company said it is taking political precautions to maintain its business in China, which accounts for nearly a fifth of its total sales.

After Apple introduced a controversial system for detecting CSAMs in its devices in recent weeks, Apple's willingness to give in to Chinese pressure has become especially evident.

The system scans users' mobile phones for illegal substances. However, critics fear it will bypass CSAM to reveal other forms of illegal content. In China, this can include the expression of political opposition.

In response to CitizenLab's analysis, Apple said it will filter incineration requests based on local laws, rules, and regulations.

She said: We process engraving inquiries regionally. There is no single universal list that contains a series of words or phrases. Instead, these decisions are made through the review process. Our team assesses local laws and cultural sensitivities.

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