Apple Says It Was Ordered to Pull WhatsApp From China App Store

Apple said it pulled the Meta-owned apps WhatsApp and Threads from its app store in China on Friday on government orders, potentially escalating the war over technology between the United States and China.

The House of Representatives was preparing to vote on a bill as soon as this weekend that would force the Chinese internet company ByteDance to sell its popular video app TikTok or have it be banned in the United States. U.S. lawmakers have said TikTok poses a security threat because of its ties to China.

Apple said that China’s internet regulator, the Cyberspace Administration, ordered the removal of WhatsApp and Threads from its app store because of national security concerns. Apple said that it complied.

“We are obligated to follow the laws in the countries where we operate, even when we disagree,” an Apple spokesman said.

A Meta spokesman directed requests for comment to Apple. The Wall Street Journal earlier reported Apple’s removal of the apps.

China has long blocked American apps and technology companies, including Facebook and Instagram, which are also owned by Meta. WhatsApp, one of the world’s most popular messaging services, and Threads were not used widely in China, which has an elaborate system to block foreign apps and websites inside its borders, known as the Great Firewall. In China, WhatsApp is dwarfed by WeChat, the Chinese-owned messaging app.

Still, until Friday, Chinese users were able to download WhatsApp and use it with the assistance of a virtual private network, or VPN, which are used to set up secure web connections and view prohibited content inside China.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

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