It’s been nearly a year since Apple began removing all VPN apps from the App Store in China, and now the iEmpire is bringing down the hammer on another type of app. Following the enforcement of new regulation from the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, Apple is removing apps that use the CallKit framework. This allows developers to integrate their calling services with other call-related apps, providing the calling interface but allowing developers to handle the back-end communication with their own VoIP service.
Apple has begun notifying developers who use this framework that they cannot use this functionality as per new government regulations. In order for their apps to be displayed in the app store, they’ll have to remove any CallKit features. This move doesn’t really come as a surprise, given that popular messaging app WeChat was forced to remove its own CallKit integration after implementing it very briefly.
While it’s not entirely clear why the Chinese government is disallowing CallKit, it’s likely due to the VoIP functionalities, which are generally not permitted in the nation. When Skype was removed from the app store last summer, it was for a similar issue. These VoIP services could allow users to dodge censorship and surveillance, as they make it difficult for government officials to monitor communication.
Apple has come under fire previously for bending too quickly to China’s will when it comes to app censorship. Not only have users protested the company’s seemingly quick adherence to rather far-reaching rules and regulations designed to stymie communication, but U.S. lawmakers have also expressed their displeasure — last year, senators released a letter noting that they were “concerned that Apple may be enabling the Chinese government’s censorship and surveillance of the Internet.”
Apple has also been noted to be taking down apps in China at a much faster clip than normal, as per a study in 2017. In fact, the company was seen to be removing around 58,000 apps in just a two week period, which 9to5Mac described as a “drastic increase compared to normal” around this time last year. We’ll just have to see what apps fall victim next.