China takes down Bible and Qur’an apps in crackdown on Apple store

Amazon’s audiobook service Audible and phone apps for reading the Bible and the Qur’an have disappeared from the Apple store in mainland China, the latest examples of the impact of the country’s tightened rules for internet firms.

Audible said Friday that it removed its Bible and Qur’an app from the Apple store in mainland China last month “due to permit requirements.” The makers of apps for reading and listening to the Bible and the Qur’an say their apps have also been removed from Apple’s China-based store at the government’s request.

Chinese regulators this year have sought to strengthen data privacy restrictions and limit how much time children can play video games. They are also exerting greater control over the algorithms used by tech firms to personalize and recommend content. The popular U.S. language-learning app Duolingo disappeared from Apple’s China store over the summer, as have many video game apps.

The removals were first detected this week by watchdog website AppleCensorship, which monitors Apple’s app store to detect when apps have been blocked, especially in China and other countries with authoritarian governments.

The maker of a Bible app said it removed the app from the Apple store in China after learning that it needed special permission to distribute an app with “book or magazine content.” Olive Tree Bible Software, based in Spokane, Wash., said it’s now reviewing the requirements to obtain the necessary permit “with the hope that we can restore our app to China’s App Store and continue to distribute the Bible worldwide.”

This week, Microsoft said it would shut down its main LinkedIn service in China later this year, citing a “significantly more challenging operating environment and greater compliance requirements in China.” Unlike LinkedIn, which has been offering a specialized Chinese service since 2014, Amazon-owned Audible said it does not have a dedicated service for customers in China (Business Financial Post).

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