Activists in Belarus are protesting against what they claim amounts to censorship by Apple, under the social-media hashtag
#AppleCensorsBelarus. The activists say the company has been working to remove posts in the iOS messaging app Telegram by people demonstrating against the Belarusian regime.
Channels on the encrypted messaging service have been used to identify and spread information about police and security forces who have been witnesses attacking protesters. But Apple has demanded that the app remove content that identifies individuals as this could lead to physical harm, which goes against the company’s policies on user-created content.
In a comment to
Newsweek, activist Tatiana Martynova criticised Apple’s decision, saying the people of Belarus are peacefully demonstrating against armed fascists who are beating and torturing the civilian population without consequences.
Pavel Durov, the Russian entrepreneur who founded Telegram, says he does not think the situation is black and white, but that he would rather leave the channels be.
“Typically Apple doesn’t offer much choice for apps like Telegram in such situations,” he said. “Unfortunately, I assume these channels will end up getting blocked on iOS, but remain available on other platforms.”
Apple has often come in for criticism from activist and human-rights groups when taking actions that appear to protect controversial political regimes. Most famously it frequently removes
seemingly innocuous apps from the Chinese App Store if they displease Beijing.
But such actions are normally taken under the justification that the company must follow the law in local regions. And in this sense the Belarus situation – in which Apple is actively taking steps to protect individuals beyond its apparent legal obligation to do so – seems different.
This article originally appeared on
Macworld Sweden. Translation by David Price.