Apple limits AirDrop in China to aid CCP censorship, thwart protestors

Apple as limited the AirDrop wireless file-sharing feature on iPhones in China after the mechanism was used by protesters opposed to Xi Jinping and the Chinese Communist Party by sharing images to other iPhone owners.

Apple’s new AirDrop discoverability settings on iPhones in China.
Apple’s new AirDrop discoverability settings on iPhones in China.

AirDrop allows the seamless, discreet exchanges of images, videos, and documents between Apple devices. Apple’s iOS 16.1.1, released Wednesday, automatically imposes a maximum 10-minute timeframe in which users can receive files from non-contacts. Previously, AirDrop didn’t limit the time involved. Users could choose to get files from everyone, no one or just their contacts.

Mark Gurman for Bloomberg News:

After the 10-minute period expires, the system reverts to the mode where files can only be received from contacts. That means that individuals won’t be able to get an AirDrop transfer from a stranger without actively turning on the feature in the preceding few minutes. It makes it harder for anyone seeking to distribute content and reach people in a discreet manner.

Apple made the change to AirDrop on iPhones sold in China. The shift came after protesters in the country used the service to spread posters opposing Xi Jinping and the Chinese government. The use of AirDrop to sidestep China’s strict online censorship has been well-documented over the past three years and was highlighted again recently.

The Cupertino, California-based tech giant has been criticized in the past for making changes to iPhone features to appease the Chinese government. In one example, the iPhone maker took heat in 2019 for hiding the Taiwanese flag emoji for users in Hong Kong or Macau. It also removed apps for virtual private networks, or VPNs, which are commonly used to circumvent the country’s internet firewall. Many of Apple’s own services are also inaccessible in China — the world’s biggest smartphone market — including Apple TV+, the iTunes Store, paid podcasts, Apple Books and Apple Arcade.

MacDailyNews Take: The tell is that this change starts exclusively in China, to which Apple, even in 2022, remains unfortunately beholden, thanks to “operations genius” Tim Cook.

To hide its latest kowtow to the CCP, Apple should have simply rolled it out worldwide and said it was to stop the unwanted sharing of explicit images in public places, such as airplanes, where AirDrop has notoriously been abused.

Of course, one way around this is to make a quick Shortcut that switches the Setting back to “Everyone for 10 Minutes.”

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  1. To those that call iPads PCs… Bullshit! PCs don’t require anyone’s permission other than the law. I’ve been calling Apple a censor for a decade and it hasn’t changed.

  2. This level of subtle control show the high degree that AAPL is under the control of the CCP.

    Back here in the USA Apple preaches “justice” and “support” for ethic minority communities of color. But in the CCP Apple is partnering, enabling, and turning a blind eye to the greatest criminal state in modern history. Slave labor, forced abortions, systematic ethic genocide, and organ harvesting for state profit while Apple does the bidding of the CCP. Shame on Apple. You have the means to do better. Do you have the will ? With the best in class 38% profit margin AAPL can choose other options.

    1. Forgive me, I must ask, why does it only seem to bother some of us when Apple does it to the Chinese, yet some (most) have been defending Apple censorship over us since the advent of the iPhone?

  3. There comes a time when one’s compliance with the laws of a country—as TC has repeatedly stated when addressing The China Issue—are no longer feasible/rational, or consistent with one’s moral guide espoused in your “home country?”

    When does the one’s compliance, with such laws, that enable domination, harm, imprisonment and sometimes, death, become complicity?

  4. “Should” is the operative word. There’s little doubt in the honest mind what’s happening and that it’s been happening f quite awhile…Apple’s censorship in China is ok’d b/c of (good citizen-ha) adhering to their laws, while coincidentally, horrific acts are occurring. Censorship there inextricably enables, at least, more horror. It’s plain to see. This makes it more atrocious. That’s why and quibbling, as you are and often do, to prove your beholden AAPL narrative shows your mettle.

    There is a scale and the China example is like NO other.

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