New statistics about mobile apps show that the Chinese market is the driving factor in the rapid growth of the app industry worldwide. Since last summer, Chinese authorities have taken steps to regulate apps in an effort to limit “illegal” content on the popular medium. In an apparent response to the new rules, Apple removed both the Chinese and English-language New York Times apps from their China-based App Store earlier this month. In a follow-up to the regulations passed in August, the Cyberspace Administration of China is now requiring all app stores to register with the government. Paul Mozur reports for The New York Times:
In a notice published on its website, the Cyberspace Administration of China said late Friday that its offices across China should ensure that records are kept on the country’s many app stores, starting Monday.
“Many apps have been found to spread illegal information, violate user rights or contain security risks,” the post read. It said the purpose of the registration was to ensure that it is clear who takes responsibility if apps, or app stores, are found to engage in illegal practices.
Beijing has begun pushing harder to enforce a law passed last year that barred apps from engaging in activities deemed to endanger national security or disrupt social order, terms that are often broadly applied to discussion of politically sensitive topics. [Source]
The new regulations effectively put the onus of regulation on the app stores and developers. While China’s major mobile companies all maintain their own app stores, third party stores have also proliferated, making oversight difficult. Eva Dou at The Wall Street Journal explains the challenges of regulating apps:
But apps create a special challenge for government censors, experts say, because they often incorporate a wide variety of functions and serve as platforms for users to exchange information, making them harder to oversee. They are also multiplying quickly.
“It’s almost impossible for the regulators to register and supervise all the millions of apps there one by one,” said Zhu Wei, deputy director of the Communications Law Research Center at the China University of Political Science and Law. “The government is managing the app stores, and stores are managing the app developers according to law.” [Source]
While “illegal content” was one target of the new regulations over apps, the proliferation of malware is another, the BBC reports:
Cheetah Mobile Security – a Beijing-based firm – reported that more than 1.4 million Chinese users’ mobile devices had been struck by infections as of January 2016, making it the worst afflicted nation. India and Indonesia were in second and third place.
“[A] reason these countries have become the worst-hit ones is that third party app markets are prevailing in these areas, and most of these third party app markets have been contaminated by malware due to weak monitoring,” it said.
CAC said the register was also intended to tackle the publication of “illegal information”. [Source]