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Once Again, Apple Removes An Anti-Censorship iOS App From China's App Store

It's not the first time this has happened, but Apple has come under criticism from various groups after removing an anti-censorship iOS application from China's App Store.

The app, called FreeWeibo (pictured above), provided iDevice users in the People's Republic of China with a means of circumventing government restrictions placed on Sina Weibo, China's Twitter-like microblogging service. In a report from Agence France-Presse, the application's co-founder associated the decision with Apple's “big business interests” in China, which offers the world's largest smartphone market.

FreeWeibo's co-founder added:

Apple's image of being a hip and trendy company is eroding - the brand will hold little cachet for the consumer because of actions like these and in the long run that means less Apple devices will be sold.

In a statement from the app's developer, Radio Netherlands Worldwide (RNW), it's claimed that Apple confirmed the removal was instigated by Beijing, “because [the app] goes against local laws.” The statement continued: “Apple makes it impossible for apps concerned with issues such as free speech or human rights to find a home in the Chinese App Store.”

This isn't the first time Apple has removed an anti-censorship application from China's App Store. As AppleInsider explains, an app called OpenDoor that allowed iDevice users to bypass the so-called “Great Firewall of China” was removed in October; another application that provided users with access to restricted literature was pulled from the App Store in April.

China's smartphone market is of course important to Apple, not the least because the Cupertino, Calif. company has recently signed-off on a deal to bring its iPhone to China Mobile - the nation's largest carrier.

China Mobile has 740 million subscribers (to put this into perspective, rival carriers China Unicom and China Telecom have 454 million subscribers combined), and as such analysts predict huge iPhone sales as a result of Apple's deal with the network. More than $10 billion in the first year alone could be added to Apple's books following the launch of its iPhone with China Mobile, according to one report; another predicts first-year China Mobile iPhone sales of 24 million.

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