Grindr removed from Apple stores in China amid crackdown on “bad Internet culture”

Photo: James Yarema, via Unsplash.

The popular gay dating app Grindr has been removed from app stores in China as the country’s Communist government renews its push for censorship ahead of the the Winter Olympics, which kick off in Beijing on Friday.

Grindr was removed from Apple’s app store in China last Thursday, according to data from the app analytics site Qimai. Grindr has also been banned from Android app stores run by Chinese phone makers like Tencent and Huawei, reports Bloomberg.

Representatives from Grindr confirmed to Bloomberg and The New York Post that the company removed its app from the Apple store in China of its own accord, citing difficulties with complying with the country’s Personal Information Protection Law.

New regulations went into effect at the end of 2021 that limit personal information stored in apps and require data transferred between China and other regions to be approved by the Chinese government, prompting some companies to remove their apps from Apple and Android stores in China. 

Several foreign Internet services, including Yahoo, Microsoft Corp.’s LinkedIn, and Epic Games Inc.’s Fortnite, pulled out of the Chinese market last year because of difficulty complying with burdensome regulations aimed at restricting or censoring certain types of content.

Grindr’s removal from online app stores comes just days after the Chinese government announced a month-long campaign aimed at policing online content to “create a civilized, healthy, festive and peaceful atmosphere for online public opinion” as the nation prepares to host the Winter Olympics.

Among the government’s goals during that time period are to crack down on online violence, pornography, the spread of rumors about the Olympics or the government, and take steps to curb “the spread of bad Internet culture,” which means rooting out online behavior that the government dislikes or finds distasteful. 

While the announcement didn’t specifically mention dating apps or homosexuality, LGBTQ people in China have found themselves targeted by the government in the past. While homosexuality or same-sex relations are not criminalized in China, LGBTQ people face widespread discrimination, and the government has banned depictions of gay people or “sissy men” on television and occasionally clamps down on online content with LGBTQ subjects or themes.

As the Post notes, Apple has enabled some Chinese government censorship by removing apps for news and podcasts, as well as banning an app used by pro-democracy activists to organize protests in Hong Kong. Apple also reportedly removed a popular Quran app last year at the request of the Communist government, which has been hostile to organized religions — especially Islam — and currently stands accused of committing genocide against Uighur Muslims in the country’s northwestern provinces.

In a 2020 document outlining its “human rights policy,” Apple claimed it believes in the importance of an open society, and expressed disagreement with China’s laws, even while saying it is required to comply with them. 

While Google does not operate an app store in China, companies like Tencent and Huawei operate their own stores offering Android apps. Those app stores frequently censor apps at the government’s behest.

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