Apple CEO Tim Cook was questioned about ongoing protests in China as he arrived for meetings with lawmakers on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. He was also asked if he regretted allegedly restricting AirDrop access in the country. But Cook remained silent, refusing to answer any questionsEarlier this week, the White House was accused of double standards, as a senior spokesman deflected questions about Apple bowing to Chinese authoritiesThe tech giant also caught heat for a new update that limits the reach of Apple products' AirDrop feature - which is only in ChinaIt was being used in the current protests to spread anti-lockdown messages Republican Senator Josh Hawley wrote a letter to CEO Tim Cook demanding more insight into Apple's actions regarding the China software update
Apple CEO Tim Cook refused to comment on the protests in China, avoiding questions about why the company’s AirDrop feature was limited in the country or his thoughts on the beatings of iPhone factory workers.
Cook was bombarded with questions as he arrived for meetings with lawmakers on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. on Thursday.
FOX Business asked him whether he supported the protests and if he regretted allegedly restricting AirDrop access. But Cook remained silent.
The meetings were held just a day after the White House was accused of double standards, as a senior spokesman deflected questions about Apple bowing to Chinese authorities, saying the tech giant was a private company, while the Biden administration says it is monitoring Twitter for misinformation.
Apple CEO Tim Cook was bombarded with questions about protests in China as he arrived for meetings with lawmakers on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. on Thursday, but remained silent
FOX Business asked him about whether he supported the protests in China and if he regretted allegedly restricting AirDrop access in the country. But Cook remained silent
Apple is catching heat for a new software update – exclusive to China – that makes it harder to use iPhones’ AirDrop feature.
That change occurred on November 9 – just weeks before historic nationwide protests broke out over the country’s ‘zero COVID’ lockdowns.
‘I’d like to know why [Apple] continues to aid and abet the totalitarian regime in [China] while campaigning against free speech at home,’ said Missouri GOP Senator Josh Hawley, throwing both spears at the firm at the same time.
In a letter addressed to CEO Tim Cook on Tuesday, Hawley called on the company to move its existing manufacturing presence in China back to the United States.
‘Why did Apple modify the AirDrop feature in China in a manner that makes it more difficult for Chinese protesters to communicate amongst themselves?’ he asked.
He accused the tech giant of ‘actively supporting the Chinese government’s brutal crackdown’ on protesters who are sick of living in authoritarian lockdowns that appear to have done little to slow the actual spread of COVID-19.
Rep. Mike Waltz of Florida, a leading voice in Congress on holding Beijing to account, stated on Tuesday: ‘Tim Cook is an apologist for a dictatorship, helping silence Chinese protesters by restricting AirDrop on iPhones only sold in Mainland China.’
‘Big Tech is playing politics and putting free speech at risk,’ Tennessee Senator Marsha Blackburn wrote on Twitter last night.
GOP lawmakers are also grilling Apple about its new China-exclusive AirDrop update that limits the feature’s usage, which was implemented just weeks before nationwide protests
The AirDrop feature allows iPhone users to bypass internet censorship by sharing pictures, videos and notes just on the wireless connection between Apple devices. It was used during the 2019 Hong Kong demonstrations by activists spreading protest literature to strangers via Apple’s vast network.
But the new China-only update limits the number of time users can receive AirDrops from people around them, or select settings that allow them to only get the content from their contacts.
After the White House was accused of double standards on Wednesday, John Kirby, the National Security Council’s coordinator for strategic communications, appeared on FOX News and said it was a case of comparing ‘apples and oranges.’
Conservatives have expressed fury with the White House, after it said it would be keeping ‘an eye on’ misinformation spread on Twitter, after Elon Musk bought the platform.
It has also expressed concern that foreign investors could manipulate the platform.
John Kirby, the National Security Council’s coordinator for strategic communications, faced accusations of double standards when he appeared on Fox News on Wednesday
Elon Musk’s ownership of Twitter has come under heavy scrutiny, leading to Republicans saying the administration has double standards when it comes to Tim Cook’s Apple
So Kirby faced tough questioning about his response to Apple restricting the use of its Airdrop feature just before protests broke out.
‘We’ve been clear about this all around the world,’ he said.
‘We want individual citizens, no matter what government they live under, to be able to communicate freely and openly, transparently and reliably.
‘And we’ve made that clear with respect to Iran. And we certainly continue to make that clear here with respect to Apple.’
Host Martha MacCallum pressed him on whether the administration had made that point to Tim Cook’s company.
‘Apple’s a private company, Martha,’ he replied. ‘They have to make decisions and they have to speak for those decisions.’
China has seen a wave of protests as it imposed lockdowns and continued with its ‘zero COVID’ policy.
Protesters have even demanded the removal of Xi Jinping as president.
Apple’s AirDrop had proven a useful way for critics to circumvent Chinese surveillance during other waves of dissent, such as in Hong Kong in 2019.
MacCallum contrasted the administration’s approach allowing Apple to do its own thing with White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre saying officials were monitoring misinformation on Twitter — despite it also being a private company.
‘I think we’ve been very clear and consistent on this,’ Kirby replied.
‘Certainly publicly, we’ve been very open about our desire to be able to see citizens communicate.
‘Apple, if this is a decision that they’re making, then they should have to speak to that but we’re not, we can’t and we aren’t in the business of telling private companies how to execute their initiatives.’
Chinese protesters in the past have found Apple’s AirDrop a useful way to evade surveillance of communications. But the company issued an update recently limiting its use
People in China have been demonstrating in defiance of the draconian COVID-19 lockdown
MacCallum stepped in to say: ‘Twitter’s a private company too. So why is Twitter getting one treatment and Apple’s getting another?’
‘Those are completely two different circumstances you’re talking about,’ he said.
‘You’re talking about the potential for perhaps foreign investment and involvement in the management of Twitter. That’s a different issue than what we’re talking about here, which is a business decision by Apple with respect to how one of their applications is being utilized.’
But he conceded it was an important question.
‘I certainly think that’s a fair question to ask Apple and, and try to make them communicate why they did this,’ he said.
The role of foreign investors in Twitter, coupled with Musk’s laissez-faire approach to moderation, has raised concerns that the platform could be manipulated by foreign powers.
Securities filings show that Prince Alwaleed bin Talal bin Abudlaziz of Saudi Arabia put up $1.9 billion of the purchase price as part of the Musk deal, making him the second biggest shareholder.
Lawmakers have already flagged the role of Saudi money in the deal and asked for a review.