Apple has reportedly removed Damus, a Twitter-like social media app backed by the nostr protocol, from its Chinese app store owing to content deemed “illegal” by the Chinese communist regime.
Damus shared on Feb. 2 a screenshot of an Apple notification, stating that the app failed a security assessment of “information services with attribute of public opinions or capable of social mobilization.”
“We are writing to notify you that your application, per demand from the Cyberspace Administration of China, will be removed from the China App Store because it includes content that is illegal in China, which is not in compliance with the App Store review guidelines,” the notification reads.
The removal happened just two days after Apple approved Damus’s listing in the App Store.
“That was fast,” Damus said of the Beijing’s ban.
That was fast pic.twitter.com/ntt9xW3AUr
— Damus⚡️ (@damusapp) February 2, 2023
Damus is built on top of nostr, a decentralized social media protocol designed to give users full control over their data. Former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey donated 14 bitcoin (around $319,796 at the time of writing) to nostr’s development last year.
The app’s approval process had been challenging because Apple requires services to have a system for flagging content.
Damus eventually found a way to be listed in the App Store on Feb. 1, after which it entered the top 10 in the Social Networking chart just hours after its release.
a milestone for open protocols…#nostr is now officially on the Apple App Store with @damusapp:https://t.co/GQmvPE5nfX
— jack (@jack) January 31, 2023
The decentralized structure of the nostr protocol likely contributed to Damus’s removal from the Apple China App Store as it potentially allows users to circumvent China’s internet censorship. China was rated “not free” by U.S.-based Freedom House’s Freedom in the World ranking in 2022.
Apple said in its notification to Damus that “apps must comply with all legal requirements in any location where you make them available,” and that it is the app developer’s responsibility to “make sure your app conforms with all local laws.”
In October 2019, Apple removed an app that protesters in Hong Kong used to track police movements named HKmap.live, saying the app violated its rules because it was used to ambush police.
According to Freedom House, China has “one of the world’s most restrictive media environments,” with thousands of websites blocked by the ruling Chinese Communist Party, including YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook.
“State management of the telecommunications infrastructure enables the blocking of websites, removal of smartphone applications from the domestic market, and mass deletion of social media posts and user accounts that touch on banned political, social, economic, and religious topics,” it stated.
From The Epoch Times