FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, June 18, 2020
“Freedom of Expression Concert” & “Worldwide Developers Against Apple Censorship Conference” to Coincide with Apple’s Famed Developers Conference
As Apple gets set to host an online version of their annual Worldwide Developers Conference, a diverse coalition working to end Apple censorship will be hosting the “Worldwide Developers Against Apple Censorship Conference” (WWDAACC) and a virtual “Freedom of Expression Concert.” These dynamic events come less than two weeks after two major podcast apps were pulled from China’s App Store , the most recent in a series of disturbing examples of how Apple is enabling the Chinese government’s efforts to repress, censor, and crack down on free expression. Given Apple’s closed ecosystem, when such podcast apps or life-saving privacy apps are pulled from China’s App Store, they cannot be added via third party. Such ecosystem restrictions and anti-competition measures are coming under increased scrutiny for their reportedly discriminatory impact on innovation and access for developers .
Through music, culture, story telling, in-depth discussions, and tech “hackathons,” the WWDAACC panelists, Freedom of Expression Concert artists, and participants of both events will bring to the forefront Apple’s unethical double standard for users of China’s App Store, including the impacts of the company’s actions on Tibetan, Uyghur, Hong Konger, Taiwanese, and Chinese iOS users. The events will also highlight how Apple’s complicity with the censorship demands of an authoritarian regime like the Chinese government contributes to the dangerous erosion of global norms for freedom of expression and privacy.
June 20th Freedom of Expression Concert: Viewers can tune in on Instagram Live at 11 a.m. EDT through @sft_international as frontline community artists, activists, and human rights defenders bring together grassroots audiences from around the world to rally for the WWDAACC. As a global technology leader, Apple’s actions affect more than just the tech community. As such, the music, story telling, and art of the pre-conference grassroots concert will highlight and amplify the voices of those on the frontlines who are impacted by Apple’s censorship and surveillance.
June 22nd day-long Worldwide Developers Against Apple Censorship Conference: Please visit https://wwdaacc20.com for streaming information, a schedule (9 a.m. – 4 p.m. EDT), and a detailed list of panelists that will feature leading voices of Tibetan, Uyghur, Chinese, and Hong Konger activists supported by foremost analysts from the Citizen Lab, Human Rights Watch, China Digital Times, The Intercept, Guardian Project, GreatFire, Dachompa Tech, and SumOfUs.
In addition to panel discussions, the WWDAACC will also host two invitation-only “hackathons” to explore the frequently opaque and undisclosed reasons that iOS apps protecting privacy and freedom of expression (among others) are routinely pulled from China’s App Store. In addition, they will work to uncover questions surrounding encryption and data storage for iOS users behind the Great Firewall, including the interface with users in other countries. Participants plan to publish collaborative reports on their findings post conference.
“For people living behind the Great Firewall, Apple’s removal of VPNs from China’s App Store, as well as other apps that allow users unfettered access to information and privacy, not only disempowers people but it puts their very lives at risk. This double standard has got to stop,” said Tibet Action Institute Digital Security Program Director Lobsang Gyatso.“While CEO Tim Cook recently told all Apple employees that the company’s ‘mission has and always will be to create technology that empowers people to change the world for the better,’  it’s clear from Apple’s actions affecting Tibetans in Tibet that this sentiment does not apply equally to all people.”
“With 40% of Apple’s 2018 customer base being below the age of 34, and young consumers increasingly seeking brands that reflect their own ethical values, the Freedom of Expression Concert specifically targets one of Apple’s most prized demographics, said Pema Doma of Students for a Free Tibet, host of Saturday’s concert. “Young people are calling on Apple to bring their actions into alignment with their stated values or risk long-term damage to their brand. This includes stopping Apple’s compliance with the Chinese Communist Party’s censorship.”