Apple CEO Tim Cook declined to comment on the protests in China, avoiding questions about why the company’s AirDrop feature was restricted in the country or his views on beating iPhone factory workers.
Cook was bombarded with questions when he arrived Thursday for meetings with lawmakers on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.
FOX Business asked him if he supported the protests and if he regretted limiting access to AirDrop. But Cook was silent.
The meetings were held just a day after the White House was accused of double standards, when a senior spokesperson deflected questions about Apple bowing to Chinese authorities by saying the tech giant was a private company, while the Biden administration says that it monitors Twitter for misinformation.
Apple CEO Tim Cook was bombarded with questions about protests in China when he arrived Thursday for meetings with lawmakers on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., but remained silent
FOX Business asked him if he supported the protests in China and if he regretted restricting access to AirDrop in the country. But Cook was silent
Apple is warming up to a new software update — a China exclusive — that makes it harder to use iPhones’ AirDrop feature.
That change happened on November 9 — just weeks before historic nationwide protests erupted over the country’s “zero COVID” lockdowns.
‘I’d like to know why[Apple]continues to help and support the totalitarian regime [China] while campaigning against free speech at home,” said Josh Hawley, GOP senator from Missouri, throwing both javelins at the company 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 has Apple modified the AirDrop feature in China to make it more difficult for Chinese protesters to communicate with each other?” he asked.
He accused the tech giant of “actively supporting the Chinese government’s brutal crackdown” against protesters tired of living in authoritarian lockdowns that appear to have done little to slow the actual spread of COVID-19.
Florida Representative Mike Waltz, a leading voice in Congress on holding Beijing to account, stated Tuesday: “Tim Cook is an apologist for a dictatorship, helping to silence Chinese protesters by restricting AirDrop on iPhones that mainland China are sold.’
“Big Tech is playing politics and endangering free speech,” Tennessee Senator Marsha Blackburn wrote on Twitter last night.
GOP lawmakers are also grilling Apple over its new China-exclusive AirDrop update that restricts use of the feature, which was rolled out just weeks before nationwide protests
The AirDrop feature allows iPhone users to bypass internet censorship by sharing photos, videos, and notes over the wireless connection between Apple devices. It was used during the 2019 Hong Kong demonstrations by activists distributing protest literature to strangers through Apple’s extensive network.
But the new China-only update limits the number of times users can receive AirDrops from people around them, or select settings that let them get only the content of their contacts.
After the The White House was accused of double standards on Wednesday. John Kirby, the National Security Council’s strategic communications coordinator, appeared on FOX News and said it was a matter of comparing “apples to oranges.”
Conservatives have taken out anger at the White House after it said it would “keep an eye” on misinformation 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 strategic communications coordinator, faced allegations of double standards when he appeared on Fox News Wednesday
Elon Musk’s ownership of Twitter has come under heavy scrutiny, leading Republicans to say the government is practicing double standards when it comes to Tim Cook’s Apple
So Kirby was awkwardly questioned about his reaction to Apple restricting the use of its Airdrop feature just before protests erupted.
“We’ve been clear about this around the world,” he said.
“We want individual citizens, whatever government they live under, to be able to communicate freely and openly, transparently and reliably.
And we made that clear with regard to Iran. And we will certainly continue to make that clear here with regard to Apple.”
Host Martha MacCallum pressed him whether the administration had made that point at Tim Cook’s company.
“Apple is 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 its ‘zero COVID’ policy.
Protesters have even demanded the removal of Xi Jinping as president.
Apple’s AirDrop had proved a useful way for critics to evade Chinese surveillance during other waves of dissent, such as in Hong Kong in 2019.
MacCallum contrasted the administration’s approach that allowed Apple to do its own thing with White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, who said 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 in public we have been very open about our desire to see citizens communicate.
Apple, if this is a decision they’re making, they should talk about it, but we don’t, we can’t and it’s not our job to tell private companies how to execute their initiatives. ‘
Chinese protesters have historically found Apple’s AirDrop a convenient way to circumvent communications surveillance. But the company recently released an update that restricts its use
People in China have demonstrated in spite of the draconian COVID-19 lockdown
MacCallum stepped in and said, “Twitter is also a private company. So why does Twitter get one treatment and Apple the other?’
“Those are totally two different circumstances you’re talking about,” he said.
“You’re talking about the potential for maybe foreign investment and involvement in the management of Twitter. That’s a different issue than what we’re talking about here, which is Apple’s business decision regarding how one of their applications is used.”
But he admitted it was an important question.
“I definitely think this is a fair question to ask Apple and have them communicate why they did this,” he said.
The role of foreign investors on 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 paid $1.9 billion of the purchase price as part of the Musk deal, making him the second-largest shareholder.
Lawmakers have already flagged Saudi money’s role in the deal and called for a review.