Written by Nick Heer.

Pocket Casts and Castro Podcasts Removed by Apple From App Store in China Upon Government Request

Rita Liao, TechCrunch:

Before June each year, content and media platforms in China anxiously anticipate a new round of censorship as the government tightens access to information in the lead-up to the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown.

This year, Chinese users lost access to two podcast apps — Pocket Casts and Castro Podcasts. Neither app is searchable within Apple’s Chinese App Store at the time of writing.

Pocket Casts:

Pocket Casts has been removed from the Chinese App store by Apple, at the request of the Cyberspace Administration of China. We believe podcasting is and should remain an open medium, free of government censorship. As such we won’t be censoring podcast content at their request.

Marco Arment’s alter ego “Overcast”:

I haven’t been contacted about the Apple-China censorship of podcast apps, but Overcast’s servers have been blocked in China for years, so it already didn’t work.

Castro is an iOS-only app, but Pocket Casts is cross-platform. It appears to also be unavailable in the Google Play store when the location is set to China, though two apps with suspiciously similar icons are. According to Liao, Apple’s first-party podcast app1 also remains in the App Store in China, but its feeds are censored.

I see a similar question of responsibility in intervention by social media companies into users’ posts and Apple’s approach to the App Store in China. Without users, social media companies wouldn’t exist; without native third-party apps, I doubt that the iPhone would be the revolutionary product it is. But, where third party apps create a unique selling point for the iPhone in the vast majority of the world, the App Store is something of a liability in China from Apple’s perspective. China can — and does — block Twitter and Facebook, but it would be foolish to block the App Store outright.

It’s not a great situation to be in, especially given the usual stance Apple takes on civil rights. But, aside from opening up the iPhone to apps from outside the App Store, I can’t think of a great way for the company to avoid this conflicted situation.

  1. “Podcatcher” was not a wildly successful term. ↩︎