Dating app Grindr disappears from Apple’s App Store in China (updated)

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Grindr is still facing problems in China. Bloomberg reports that the gay dating app disappeared from Apple’s App Store in the country, with researchers from Qimai estimating that the software was removed on January 27. There was no immediate explanation for the departure, but it came just days after China’s Cyberspace Administration launched a campaign to purge illegal online material, pornography and rumors ahead of the Olympics. of winter.

We asked Apple and Grindr for comment. The app’s departure came after weeks of problems with Grindr’s service, such as problems adding likes or sending messages.

Homosexuality is not a crime in China. Nonetheless, the country has occasionally censored gay content and other LGBT content. Bloomberg notes that the National Radio and Television Administration recently used homophobic terms to castigate androgynous-looking men and called for a boycott of gay male romance. If regulators ordered Grindr removed, it could have been part of this larger campaign to enforce social compliance.

That said, Grindr already had a strained relationship with the Chinese government. The company was Chinese-owned before it was forced to sell due to US sanctions, and China-based rivals like Blued remain on the App Store despite Grindr’s demise. If these apps persist, their presence would suggest that China has chosen Grindr instead of targeting all gay dating apps.

Whatever the reasons, the removal highlights an ongoing problem for Apple and other overseas app store owners who want to operate in China. While they may tout the importance of freedom and privacy in their home country, Chinese rules frequently require them to extract apps or exclude features if they wish to continue participating in one. of the largest mobile device markets in the world. Simply put, companies like Apple have to compromise if they want to maintain a meaningful Chinese presence.

Update for 1/31 at 2:30 p.m. ET: Grindr’s developer has removed the app, according to Apple.

Update for 01/31 at 4:54 p.m. ET: Engadget understands that Grindr has removed the app due to potential issues arising from China’s Personal Information Protection Law, which governs private data. In particular, the law requires that any cross-border data transfer pass through the Cyberspace Administration. This could be a problem when these international transfers are practically necessary for Grindr business.

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