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China to question Apple about use of app streaming to beat censors

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Three government agencies lead crackdown on popular software which can be used to violate internet regulation

Chinese authorities will question Apple over live-streaming video software available on the companys app store, amid an increasingly hostile business environment for foreign firms in the worlds second largest economy.

Police, cyberspace administration and cultural law enforcement team will jointly summon Apple, state news agency Xinhua reported, as part of a wider crackdown on live-streaming video services.

The three Chinese government agencies planned to tell Apple to tighten up checks on software offered on its app store. Law enforcement officers had already met with Apple representatives over live-streaming services, Xinhua reported, but did not provide details of the meetings.

The inquiry appears to be focused on third-party apps available for download through Apples online marketplace. The company did not respond to requests for comment.

China operates the worlds largest internet censorship regime, blocking a host of foreign websites including Google, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, but the authorities have struggled to control an explosion in popularity of live-streaming video apps.

China accounted for almost a quarter of Apples worldwide revenue in the companys most recent financial quarter, and the app store is increasingly important as sales of iPhones and iPad in China slow. Over the past year, Apple has twice been forced to shut or remove services from China at the governments request.

As part of the inquiry into live-streaming, three Chinese websites toutiao.com, huoshanzhibo.com and huajiao.com were already found to have violated internet regulations, and had broadcast content that violated Chinese law, including providing pornographic content, the Xinhua report said. Pornography is banned in China.

The three sites were told to increase oversight of live-broadcasting services, user registration and the handling of tips-offs. Two of the websites, huoshanzhibo.com and huajiao.com, were under formal investigation and may have their cases transferred to the police for criminal prosecutions, the Xinhua report said.

Rules issued by Chinas cyberspace administration in June 2016 ban apps from publishing or disseminating prohibited information or content.

Casting a wide net, the regulations state that apps cannot engage in activities prohibited by laws and regulations such as endangering national security, disrupting social order and violating the legitimate rights and interests of others.

A recent survey showed American businesses in China are facing one of the toughest climates in decades, largely due to increasing animosity towards foreign firms and slowing economic growth.

Barriers to investment remain high, the American Chamber of Commerce in China said, despite Chinas attempts to project an image of globalisation and openness, and about 81% of the chambers members said they felt unwelcome in 2016, an increase from 77% in 2015.

In December, Apple removed the New York Times app from its store in China after a government request. The newspapers website has been blocked in China since 2012 after it published a story detailing the wealth of former prime minister Wen Jiabao and his family.

Last year, authorities also forced Apple to shutter its iBooks and iTunes movie platforms in China, where print and online media is tightly controlled.

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/us