Do Better, Apple
I write this on a MacBook Pro running on a hotspot off my iPhone. I love Apple. In first grade, I got to work on an Apple II. By third grade, our school had an Apple IIe. By fourth grade, we had a computer lab filled with Apple IIe’s where we learned to type, learned the programming language logo, and learned how to use AppleWorks. In sixth grade, we had BASIC programming on an Apple IIe. By eighth grade, we were rolling over to Macs and I fell in love with an Apple IIgs.
In school, my family was the only one without a computer until we moved back to rural Louisiana from Dubai. My parents got me a PC, and I became one of only four kids in the school with a computer. In Dubai, I helped my teacher run his computer lab. In ninth grade, I learned desktop publishing on a Mac SE/30, a IIcx, and IIfx.
In Louisiana, I lusted after Macs, but they were super expensive. The Mac I wanted, the IIci, was well outside a typical family budget. A couple of years into college, I got a Mac Performa and never returned to a PC except at work when I had to.
I am an Apple fan. Rush Limbaugh and I used to race to buy iPhones and would pass notes back and forth through the day as we played with them on release day. We’d shoot emails back and forth during Apple Keynotes. I think what Apple has made — what Steve Jobs ushered into the world and what Tim Cook has stewarded — is exciting, good, and makes me happy.
So I am very disappointed in the company.
I understand that years ago Apple decided it could make its products in China at a large scale for less money. But now, Apple is tied to the authoritarian regime. It has turned off its very useful AirDrop feature that helped Chinese protestors. It did so at the command of the communist regime. This is not the first time Apple has had to bend to the will of its Chinese masters.
I understand Apple has very little choice if it wants to do business in China, but doing business in China is a choice. Margaret Thatcher ultimately regretted overseeing the handover of Hong Kong to China. The British assumed their values could penetrate China and reform its communist totalitarian state. They realized too late they were wrong.
Apple may think it can be a force for good in China, but it should be clear now that it cannot be.
Moreso, Apple’s pressure on Twitter adds to the problems.
Let’s be very clear, neither Apple nor Elon Musk has clean hands here. Both the former and the latter have played to and catered to Xi in China. They have tried to placate the communist taskmaster to line their pockets with money. Elon Musk may scream about free speech, but he is not really committed to it except where it benefits him. It benefits him at Twitter.
What is so disturbing about Apple is that it continues to let TikTok exist in its app store while, if Musk is to be believed, Apple has threatened to remove Twitter if Twitter does not censor content.
TikTok is run by a company, ByteDance, that operates as a subsidiary of the Chinese Communist regime and army. At the bottom of this piece you can see a picture of Apple CEO Tim Cook with former ByteDance CEO Zhang Yiming in Beijing. Zhang fled China after stepping down as CEO.
ByteDance’s TikTok is a surveillance app by the Chinese state deployed against westerners. In addition to probably building a facial recognition database for China globally, multiple reports have documented TikTok being used by the Chinese communists to spy on people in the West. On top of that, TikTok’s algorithm seems specially designed to pollute the minds of western youth. The whole organization is nefarious, and Democrat Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, the Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, is openly warning Americans to get off TikTok.
Justice Department officials say ByteDance is beholden to Chinese laws that may require the company to assist in surveillance and intelligence operations at the direction of the Chinese government. (Source)
But Apple does nothing against a surveillance app of the Chinese communists while threatening to ban Twitter from its app store for Twitter allowing too much free speech.
Elon Musk is no saint here, but Apple is at home and abroad siding with those who want less speech, not more; more state control, not less; and heavier hands applied to technology, not lighter hands.
This is unacceptable. Apple needs to do better.