Update: Despite what this study claims, it does appear that Grindr and Scruff are both available worldwide in the App Store. Apple says that the report contains other inaccuracies as well. Notably, Apple says that none of the 27 apps mentioned in the report in regards to China were removed by Apple. And of the 64 apps monitored, by the survey, just 4 were removed from a particular country because of legal issues.
Something important to consider is that developers control the countries in which their applications are available. Developers oftentimes will preemptively remove an app from certain locations due to legal concerns or to protect their users.
Apple is facing criticism for removing LGBTQ+ applications from the App Store in 152 countries around the world. A new joint study from US-based advocacy group Fight for the Future and China-based GreatFire, which tracks censorship in China, details that Apple’s decisions in these countries “enables government censorship of LGBTQ+ content.”
New findings from United States-based Fight for the Future and China-based GreatFire reveal that Apple has been enabling government censorship of LGBTQ+ content, most directly 1,377 documented cases of app access restrictions, in 152 App Stores around the world. Moreover, at least 50 LGBTQ+ apps, including the majority of the most popular ones, are currently unavailable in one or more App Stores.
Most of the App Stores where the most number of apps are blocked, coincide with countries already low on the list for human rights for the queer community. Underscoring Apple’s role in enabling this censorship is cases such as Malaysia, whose government criminalizes homosexuality but where only 7 LGBTQ+ apps are removed from its App Store; or Niger and South Korea, whose governments have legalized homosexuality, but whose App Stores are within the top 10 with most unavailable LGBTQ+ apps.
The study was highlighted in a report from Protocol today. Among the findings in the study is that the App Store in China has removed 27 LGBTQ+-related applications, either at the request of the Chinese government or preemptively. Saudi Arabia is the App Store with the most LGBTQ+-related applications unavailable, missing 28 apps.
Benjamin Ismail, GreatFire’s campaign and advocacy director and Apple Censorship project coordinator, told Protocol that even though China is known for widespread and pervasive censorship, it’s surprising that the country bans more LGBTQ+-related apps on the App Store than countries that criminalize homosexuality.
One thing to note is that just because an application is unavailable in a specific country doesn’t mean that it was removed by Apple. Ismail confirmed to Protocol, however, that the GreatFire study “didn’t count apps that were removed by their developers.”
Here are the high-level findings cited by the Fight for the Future study:
- Saudi Arabia is the App Store with the most LGBTQ+ related apps unavailable (28 apps), followed by China (27).
- 6 out of the top 10 App Stores with censored LGBTQ+ content are in Sub-Saharan Africa.
The study also points to the “least available” LGBTQ+ apps available globally:
- weBelong – Find Your Community (unavailable in 144 App Stores)
- Hinge: Dating & Relationships (unavailable in 135 App Stores)
- Qutie – LGBT Dating (unavailable in 115 App Stores)
- Adam4Adam Gay Dating Chat A4A (unavailable in 80 App Stores)
- Trans – Transgender Dating (unavailable in 77 App Stores)
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