SHAGNHAI, China, Oct. 13 (UPI) -- Apple's News App was reported as non-functioning in China, but the company will not say whether it or the Chinese government is blocking the app.
Although the app, newly introduced with iOS 9, has officially launched only in the United States, U.S. users who download the app in the country can use it in other countries, including Hong Kong, but not mainland China.
CNN reporters in China and Hong Kong downloaded the app by switching their region to the United States. Although the download was successful, the app itself issued an error message saying "Story Unavailable: News isn't supported in your current region."
Founder and CEO of crowdsourced testing services Pay4Bugs, Larry Salibra, has owned a business in China "for the better part of a decade." He too conducted tests to determine how and why the News app is being blocked.
Using uncensored roaming Internet from his hotel in Dongguan did not make the app work, and neither did using a Chinese cellular network while in Hong Kong. Connecting to a Hong Kong network from China, however, did make the app work, meaning the app block is tied to Chinese networks. Salibra points out this technology is used by Apple's Maps app to download government-approved map images by Chinese company Autonavi when a Chinese network is used.
CNN says the app block highlights larger issues of digital censorship by the Chinese government, which actively blocks sites like Google, Facebook, The Wall Street Journal and Reuters. Only LinkedIn has been allowed to operate in China after it agreed to block certain content.
Other countries like Spain also have laws that affect mobile apps. One such law stipulates that news aggregating programs like News have to pay a licensing fee for using excerpts from news stories.