BEIJING (Reuters) – Apple Inc (AAPL.O) says it has pulled illegal lottery apps from its App Store in China amid tightening regulation and a barrage of criticism from state media.
According to state media, the company has recently pulled around 25,000 apps from its Chinese store in an effort to cooperate with regulators.
Apple confirmed it has recently removed gambling apps from its store, but did not confirm the number of apps or a timeline for the removals.
“We have already removed many apps and developers for trying to distribute illegal gambling apps on our App Store, and we are vigilant in our efforts to find these and stop them from being on the App Store,” Apple said in a statement.
State broadcaster CCTV criticized the U.S. company’s management on Sunday for allowing gambling apps, which are banned in China. It’s the second time the broadcaster has targeted the firm in the past month over the apps.
Official media has also recently criticized the company’s iMessage service in China, saying the company’s refusal to monitor communications is a hindrance to authorities.
Last year Apple began removing hundreds of virtual private network (VPN) apps on request from regulators. The apps help users bypass China’s Great Firewall and access foreign social media and news, which are largely banned in China.
App stores run by other companies, including Baidu Inc (BIDU.O) and Tencent Holdings Ltd (0700.HK), are also required to remove banned foreign content and gambling apps.
Apple’s App Store is the only major foreign-run app platform in China, where competitors – including Alphabet Inc’s (GOOGL.O) Google Play store – are banned.
Apple has been subject to increasingly strict rules regarding its content in China amid a wider effort by regulators to create a “clean” cyberspace, which includes enhanced censorship policies.
Earlier this year the company moved cryptographic keys for its iCloud service to China under new legal requirements, raising human rights fears as the country is introducing increasingly strict digital surveillance measures.
Reporting by Cate Cadell; Editing by Stephen Coates