These 6 tech companies have made the controversial decision to try to operate in China, where the government can demand social media posts be removed or search results be censored

The US and China are locked in an intensifying cold war, and the global tech industry is at the center of it

The standoff affects everything from supply chains to the sites everyday consumers can use — the US recently banned companies like Huawei from doing business in the US, and on the flip side, many US tech companies are banned from operating in China under its strict "Great Firewall" of censorship.

Wikipedia, Twitter, and Facebook, are among the major websites that Chinese users can't access. Other companies have controversially decided to make concessions to China in order to operate in the country, including Microsoft and Apple. US companies that comply with Chinese censorship policies often face criticism, which led Google to abandon plans to expand a search engine to the country.

Here are all the ways that tech companies have operated — or attempted to operate — in China under the Great Firewall.

Apple, Microsoft, Google, Airbnb, and Blizzard all did not immediately respond to Business Insider's request for comment on their operations in China. 

Apple removed listings from the App Store that don't comply with Chinese laws.

apple store hong kong

The Apple store Hong Kong.
Apple

The Verge has previously reported that Apple has removed apps for VPNs, The New York Times, and gambling.

In the last two days, Apple has also removed HKmap.live, which enabled protesters to track Hong Kong Police, from the App Store a few days after initially approving it. An Apple spokesman told Business Insider that the app was being used in ways that put Hong Kong residents and law enforcement in danger.

Additionally, Apple removed the news app Quartz, and the site's investigations editor John Keefe suggested Quartz's coverage of the Hong Kong protests could be a factor in the decision.

Microsoft censors political content that could anger the Chinese government from Bing search results and LinkedIn posts.

linkedin computer

Microsoft's LinkedIn networking site.
Shutterstock

According to The Guardian in 2014, searches for the Dalai Lama and Tiananmen Square, among other topics, returned different results in Chinese and English, suggesting that Microsoft was applying Chinese censorship rules to users not in China as well. Microsoft blamed this on a "systems error." 

And earlier this year, Bing was briefly blocked in China, reportedly for "illegal content," but service was eventually restored. 

Now, Chinese-language censorship is no longer applied through Bing, but the search engine still censors results within China.

The censorship applies to Microsoft-owned LinkedIn, too. According to Wired, in 2014, Hong Kong legislator Charles Mok had a LinkedIn post referencing Tiananmen Square taken down, and he received a message from the company explaining why the post was not visible.

 

Google had plans for a censored search engine in China, but backlash from employees and the public led it to cancel the project.

sundar pichai google congress hearing

Google CEO Sundar Pichai.
Reuters/Jim Young

In August 2018, The Intercept published Google's plan to launch a censorship-compliant search engine in China, codenamed Project Dragonfly.

The report said that Dragonfly would "blacklist sensitive queries," meaning no results would show when people searched certain banned terms. In December 2018, Google CEO Sundar Pichai testified before Congress that the company had no plans to launch a search engine in China. The project has reportedly been halted.

Google has been blocked in China since 2010, when it pulled out of the country at the behest of cofounder Sergey Brin, as part of his motto, "Don't be evil."

Airbnb cancels bookings in China during large political events.

Airbnb


Joe Scarnici/Getty

In 2018, Airbnb canceled reservations and removed listings in Beijing during China's National People's Congress, an annual two-week meeting of parliament. The company told Business Insider it did this due to "external factors," in order to "be good neighbors."

Airbnb also removed listings and canceled bookings ahead of the Communist Party's five-yearly congress.

Blizzard, the company that developed "World of Warcraft" and "Overwatch," punished a competitor who publicly supported Hong Kong protesters.

Blitzchung Heartstone ban interview

Esports competitor Blitzchung.

Invent Global

Esports competitor Chung Ng Wai, or Blitzchung, yelled "Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our age" during an interview at the Hearthstone tournament in Taiwan. Now, Blizzard Entertainment is facing criticism for banning Blitzchung from competitions for a year and rescinding his prize money.

Chinese company Tencent, which also owns WeChat, owns 5% of Activision Blizzard, Blizzard's parent company. 

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