It looks like Apple is scouring its Chinese App Store for any remaining services that may not sit well with Chinese censors. Two RSS reader apps, Reeder and Fiery Feeds, said this week that their iOS apps have been removed in China over content that is considered “illegal” in the country.
Apps get banned in China for all sorts of reasons. Feed readers of RSS, or Real Simple Syndication, are particularly troubling to the authority because they fetch content from third-party websites, allowing users to bypass China’s Great Firewall and reach otherwise forbidden information.
Those who use RSS readers in China are scarce, as the majority of China’s internet users — 940 million as of late — receive their dose of news through domestic services, from algorithmic news aggregators such as ByteDance’s Toutiao, WeChat’s built-in content subscription feature, to apps of mainstream local outlets.
Major political events and regulatory changes can trigger new waves of app removals, but it’s unclear why the two RSS feed readers were pulled this week. Inoreader, a similar service, was banned from Apple’s Chinese App Store back in 2017. Feedly is also unavailable through the local App Store.
The latest incidents could well be part of Apple’s business-as-usual in China: cleaning up foreign information services operating outside Beijing’s purview. The history of China’s crackdown on RSS dates back to 2007 when the authority launched a blanked ban on web-based RSS feed aggregators.
Before its ban, the Fiery Feeds iOS app was available in China without the use of a VPN, though some of the synced services it supported were blocked, the app told TechCrunch. Reeder and Apple cannot be immediately reached for comment.
“It seems [the ban] comes from the Chinese government, so I do see any use in appealing to Apple,” said a spokesperson at Fiery Feeds.