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Apple Restricts Air Drop in China After Dissidents Use It to Evade Censors

Bill Birtles / Twitter
Bill Birtles / Twitter

Apple seemingly bowed to Communist China’s “sharp power” economic leverage again on Thursday by restricting the use of its AirDrop file-sharing service on Chinese iPhones.

Dissidents were taking advantage of AirDrop to distribute messages and images blocked by Communist censors for criticizing the regime, including the striking image of a protester who hung banners from a bridge criticizing dictator Xi Jinping on the eve of his ascension to a third term in power.

Using AirDrop to transmit slogans similar to those displayed by “Bridge Man” has become a popular method of protest among younger Chinese iPhone owners. The Communist Party’s vast army of censors has been shuttering accounts that attempted to discuss “Bridge Man” online, and even suppressing searches for words such as “bridge” and “courage.”

Until Apple clipped its wings, AirDrop was one of the few readily-available methods of secure and private file sharing on China’s heavily-monitored Internet. The system is difficult for censors to monitor or block because it does not run through remote online servers. Instead, it allows iPhones and other Apple devices to send files to each other directly using WiFi and Bluetooth signals. The devices must be fairly close to each other for AirDrop to work.

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