Apple Abides by Political Censorship by Banning Phrases on iPad Engravings in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan

Apple lets you engrave names, emojis, and numbers on its product. This is a great way to personalize your device and add a unique touch. It has now come to light that Apple is censoring words and phrases that customers can engrave on their products in China, Taiwan and Hong Kong. Typically, Apple censors racist expression and select vulgar words. However, the latest report by Citizen Lab claims the company has censored more than just the usual phrases in China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan.

The report says Apple has restricted customers from getting political references engraved in Hong Kong and Taiwan. The Cupertino company doesn’t mention the number of words or an exact list of banned phrases. However, Citizen Lab has discovered that Apple has banned 1,045 keywords in China, 542 in Hong Kong, 397 in Taiwan, 206 in Canada, 192 in Japan, and 170 in the US.

Interestingly the company has not blocked any political phrases in the US, Canada, and Japan. On the contrary, almost half of the blocked words in China and Hong Kong were of political nature. The research includes engravings for AirTags and iPad. However, it looks like Apple has banned the same set of words/phrases across all devices.

We found that part of Apple’s mainland China political censorship bleeds into both Hong Kong and Taiwan. Much of this censorship exceeds Apple’s legal obligations in Hong Kong, and we are aware of no legal justification for the political censorship of content in Taiwan.

Chinese users are not allowed to use the numbers 8964 for AirTag engraving. It is because the number 8964 refers to the Tiananmen Square protests that took place on June 4th, 1989. What is surprising is that censorship also trickles into Hong Kong, which is labeled as the “special administrative region” of China.

Hong Kong is known for its political independence. In Hong Kong, phrases like 雙普選 (double universal suffrage), 雨伞革命 (Umbrella Revolution), and 新聞自由 (freedom of the press) cannot be engraved. Apple is legally not obliged to impose such rigorous censorship. Do you feel Apple should take a stand against political censoring? Let us know in the comments below.

[via Citizen Lab]