Censorship, Surveillance and Profits: A Hard Bargain for Apple in China

On Chinese iPhones, Apple forbids apps about the Dalai Lama while hosting those from the Chinese paramilitary group accused of detaining and abusing Uyghurs, an ethnic minority group in China.

The company has also helped China spread its view of the world. Chinese iPhones censor the emoji of the Taiwanese flag, and their maps suggest Taiwan is part of China. For a time, simply typing the word “Taiwan” could make an iPhone crash, according to Patrick Wardle, a former hacker at the National Security Agency.

Sometimes, Mr. Shoemaker said, he was awakened in the middle of the night with demands from the Chinese government to remove an app. If the app appeared to mention the banned topics, he would remove it, but he would send more complicated cases to senior executives, including Mr. Cue and Mr. Schiller.

Apple resisted an order from the Chinese government in 2012 to remove The Times’s apps. But five years later, it ultimately did. Mr. Cook approved the decision, according to two people with knowledge of the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Apple recently began disclosing how often governments demand that it remove apps. In the two years ending June 2020, the most recent data available, Apple said it approved 91 percent of the Chinese government’s app-takedown requests, removing 1,217 apps.

In every other country combined over that period, Apple approved 40 percent of requests, removing 253 apps. Apple said that most of the apps it removed for the Chinese government were related to gambling or pornography or were operating without a government license, such as loan services and livestreaming apps.

Yet a Times analysis of Chinese app data suggests those disclosures represent a fraction of the apps that Apple has blocked in China. Since 2017, roughly 55,000 active apps have disappeared from Apple’s App Store in China, according to a Times analysis of data compiled by Sensor Tower, an app data firm. Most of those apps have remained available in other countries.

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Clubhouse App Creates Space for Open Talk in Middle East

Clubhouse policy bans users from recording conversations without participants’ consent, but the company says it temporarily records audio for investigating reports of policy violations. It has not specified who can listen to such recordings, or when.

A Clubhouse spokeswoman declined to comment.

Yet something about the spontaneous, intimate nature of the conversations — open to everyone regardless of fame or follower count — keeps lassoing people in. Away from government propaganda, Clubhouse is allowing Qataris unfettered access to their Saudi neighbors after years of bitter feuding between their countries and Egyptians access to Muslim Brotherhood defenders.

“People have been longing for this kind of communication for a long time, but I don’t think they realized it until they started using Clubhouse,” said Tharwat Abaza, 28, an Egyptian dentist who said he had listened to rooms discussing sexual harassment, feminism, the need for sex education in Arab countries and mental health. “At this point, it’s one of the freest platforms, and it’s giving us room for important discussions that we should be having without fear of witch hunting.”

There are, of course, many less charged Clubhouse rooms in the Middle East, discussing the cuteness of penguins, entrepreneurship, recipes, breakups and music. During the holy month of Ramadan, users in some countries are offering live recitations of the Quran and communal prayer rooms.

But if Clubhouse can function as group therapy, talk show, house party or seminar, it stands out for its political potential.

In Iran, despite predictions of low turnout ahead of its June 18 presidential election, election-focused Clubhouse rooms are among the most popular. Thousands participate daily at a time when in-person campaigning is limited by the pandemic.

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France Weighs an Anti-Terrorism Bill as Insecurity Widens a Political Fracture

PARIS — The French government, responding to several attacks over the past seven months, presented a new anti-terrorism bill on Wednesday that would allow intense algorithmic surveillance of phone and internet communications and tighten restrictions on convicted terrorists emerging from prison.

Prepared before the latest terrorist attack — the fatal stabbing five days ago of a police employee by a radicalized Tunisian immigrant — the bill assumed greater urgency in a country where feelings of insecurity have spread.

“There have been nine attacks in a row that we could not detect through current means,” Gérald Darmanin, the interior minister, told France Inter radio. “We continue to be blind, doing surveillance on normal phone lines that nobody uses any longer.”

The draft bill, prepared by Mr. Darmanin, came in a political and social climate envenomed by Marine Le Pen, the far-right leader, who applauded a letter published this month by 20 retired generals that described France as being in a state of “disintegration” and warned of a possible coup in thinly veiled terms.

Ms. Parly said on Twitter, alluding to the far right leader’s candidacy in the presidential election next year.

She continued: “The politicization of the armed forces suggested by Ms. Le Pen would weaken our military and therefore France itself. The armed forces are not there to campaign but to defend France and protect the French.”

The defense minister said the retired officers involved could be disciplined, and checks were being conducted to verify whether any active-service military personnel were involved.

The letter, published on the 60th anniversary of a failed coup by generals opposed to France’s granting independence to Algeria, amounted to a distillation of the extreme right’s conviction that France is being torn apart by the kind of violence that last week killed the police officer, Stéphanie Monfermé. Her assailant’s position of having been in France illegally for a decade before regularizing his status only fueled the right’s ire.

The retired generals alluded to the “suburban hordes” — a derogatory reference to the mainly Muslim immigrants gathered in aging tower-block developments around major French cities — who they said were detaching segments of the nation “to transform them into territories subject to dogmas opposed to our Constitution.”

One such dogma, they made clear, was “Islamism” and another rampant “racialism” — a word used often in France to denounce the importation from the United States of forms of identity politics that see issues through the prism of race.

Ms. Le Pen has been engaged in what French commentators call a “banalization” operation aimed at making her look more mainstream. Her outburst clearly did not help this effort. An attempted pivot in a radio interview, in which she said that all problems should be solved peacefully, betrayed her unease.

Mr. Darmanin’s draft bill would, if approved by Parliament, pave the way for increased use of computer algorithms that allow the automatic processing of data from phones and web addresses to detect potential terror threats. This use, patchy and experimental until now, would be enshrined in law, and intelligence services would be able to keep the data for research purposes for up to two months.

Laurent Nuñez, France’s national intelligence and counterterrorism coordinator, told France Inter that the technique would apply to communications with people living in sensitive areas, such as Syria, where strongholds of jihadist terrorists remain.

“An algorithm tomorrow will not be able to detect the content of this communication,” Mr. Nuñez said, by way of example. But it would be able “to detect that an individual in France has come into contact with an individual in northwestern Syria.”

Intelligence services could then ask for permission to further investigate the case.

Mr. Darmanin, responding to concerns that civil liberties will be gravely infringed, said that several layers of authorization would be required before tapping the conversations of people detected as suspect by the algorithms.

Concern about infractions of civil liberties in the fight against terrorism have been growing for some time. Arthur Messaud, a lawyer for an association that defends personal online rights and freedom, told France Inter the scope of the new measures was unclear. For example, would all instant messaging be monitored?

The draft bill would also allow the government to monitor terrorists who have completed their prison terms by requiring them to live in certain areas, limiting their movements and barring them from going anywhere — like a sports stadium — that presents “a particular terrorism risk.”

Constant Méheut contributed reporting.

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France Lawmakers Pass Contentious Bill Extending Police Powers

PARIS — The French Parliament passed a contentious security bill on Thursday that extends police powers, despite criticism from political opponents and civil rights activists who have vowed to challenge the legislation before France’s Constitutional Council.

Among other measures, the bill broadens the powers of municipal police forces, expands the police’s ability to use drones to monitor citizens in public and toughens sentences for people found guilty of assaulting officers. One of the most arduously debated measures criminalizes the act of helping identify officers with intent to harm them.

President Emmanuel Macron’s government has argued that the bill provides a necessary boost to embattled police forces and protects them from increasingly violent protesters and malicious attempts to identify them or their families, off and online.

But critics — including the French journalist unions, civil liberties groups and the authorities’ own human rights ombudsman — say the legislation is too broad.

Constitutional Council, which reviews legislation to ensure it complies with the French Constitution and could strike down parts of the bill.

Opposition to the bill sparked large protests last fall and was fueled by several widely publicized instances of police brutality, especially the beating of a Black music producer in Paris that was caught on security camera in November.

While the protests put pressure on the government to rewrite a provision on sharing images of the police, it refused to heed calls from opponents to scrap the entire bill.

the Interior minister who championed the bill, told lawmakers on Thursday that it would be France’s “shame” if it failed to prevent people with malicious intent from publicly spreading identifying information or pictures of security forces.

“Police officers and gendarmes are children of the Republic, and they must be protected because they protect us every day,” Mr. Darmanin said.

an incident in Seine-Saint-Denis, a northern suburb of Paris, where pictures of local officers were taken from their social media accounts, printed, and then posted on buildings that the minister described as spots for drug dealing, calling it an act of intimidation.

“While some moralizers strive to dismantle the security bill and most notably Article 24, time and time again, the police are bearing the consequences,” the Unité SGP Police union said in a statement after the pictures were discovered.

Police unions have long-complained that officers are overburdened and under appreciated, and after years of facing deadly terrorist attacks, suppressing violent Yellow Vest protests and enforcing strict Covid-19 lockdowns, the unions have welcomed steps to protect officers.

on police brutality and racism in France, after several years of controversies over deadly or brutal police interventions.

Over the past few months, six nongovernmental organizations took rare legal steps to force an overhaul of the country’s policing, and Mr. Macron’s government has started an online platform to consult citizens on discrimination issues.

Opponents of the security bill say it lacks adequate safeguards, for instance against police drones infringing on people’s privacy. They also argue that the provision aimed at preventing the malicious identification of police officers is still too open to interpretation, and that it could stifle attempts to record or document police brutality, including by journalists.

Alexis Corbière, a lawmaker for the far-left France Unbowed party who opposed the bill, told the National Assembly on Thursday that the bill did nothing to “reforge the essential trust between citizens and their police.”

“It casts suspicion on the role of the police,” Mr. Corbière said. “It gives the impression that this vital public service cannot be subjected to any citizen criticism.”

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The Lawyer Behind the Throne at Fox

LOS ANGELES — In early 2019, as the Murdoch family completed the $71 billion sale of 21st Century Fox to Disney, executives at the movie studio learned that someone was reading all their emails.

And not just anyone: Viet Dinh, the Fox Corporation’s chief legal officer and close friend of Fox’s chief executive, Lachlan Murdoch, had brought on a team of lawyers to investigatethe potential improper use of Fox data” by top 21st Century Fox executives he suspected of leaking to Disney while the terms were still being hammered out, a Fox spokeswoman said. The studio’s president, Peter Rice, and the company’s general counsel, Gerson Zweifach, protested that they were merely conducting normal transition planning — and that Mr. Dinh was being so paranoid he might blow up the transaction.

The episode didn’t scuttle the deal. But the previously unreported conflict between the studio executives and Mr. Dinh, a sociable and relentless Republican lawyer who was the chief architect in 2001 of the antiterrorism legislation known as the Patriot Act, offers a rare glimpse into the opaque power structure of Rupert Murdoch’s world. The nonagenarian mogul exercises immense power, through News Corp and the Fox Corporation, in driving a global wave of right-wing populism. But basic elements of how his media companies run remain shrouded in mystery.

In the case of the Fox Corporation, the questions of who is in charge and what the future holds are particularly hazy. The company, minus its studio, is now a midsize TV company adrift in a landscape of giants like Disney and AT&T that control everything from cellular phone networks to streaming platforms, film and television. Fox’s profits are dominated by Fox News. Lachlan Murdoch’s more liberal brother, James, who no longer holds an operational role in the family businesses, has made clear he’d like to see a change.

complained to The Financial Times about “outlets that propagate lies to their audience.”

Last month, Lachlan Murdoch moved his family to Sydney, Australia, an unlikely base for a company whose main assets are American. The move has intensified the perception — heightened when he stood by as Fox News hosts misinformed their audience about Covid-19 last year — that Mr. Murdoch does not have a tight grip on the reins. The company takes pains to rebut that perception: The Fox spokeswoman told me that Mr. Murdoch is so committed that he has adopted a nocturnal lifestyle, working midnight to 10 a.m. Sydney time. (She also said it would be “false and malicious” to suggest that Mr. Dinh is exercising operational control over Fox’s business units.) It’s such a disorienting situation that one senior Fox employee went so far as to call me last week to ask if I knew anything about succession plans. I promised I’d tell him if I figured it out.

But Mr. Dinh, 53, was ready to step in, and indeed has been seen internally as the company’s power center since before Mr. Murdoch headed across the globe. Mr. Dinh’s ascent caps an unlikely turn in his career that began when he met Lachlan Murdoch at an Aspen Institute event in 2003. The Murdoch heir later asked him to both fill a seat on the company’s board and to be godfather to his son. (“He couldn’t find any other Catholics,” Mr. Dinh joked to The New York Observer in 2006.)

Two former Fox employees and one current and one former Fox News employee familiar with his role painted him as the omnipresent and decisive right hand of a chief executive who is not particularly hands-on. (They spoke only on the condition they not be named because Fox keeps a tight grip on its public relations.) While Mr. Dinh is not running day-to-day programming, he manages the political operation of a company that is the central pillar of Republican politics, and he’s a key voice on corporate strategy who has played a role in Fox’s drive to acquire and partner its way into the global online gambling industry.

In a recent interview with the legal writer David Lat — headlined “Is Viet Dinh the Most Powerful Lawyer in America?” — Mr. Dinh called suggestions in this column and in The Financial Times that he’s more than a humble in-house counsel “flat-out false.”

once told VietLife magazine that he worked jobs including “cleaning toilets, busing tables, pumping gas, picking berries, fixing cars” to help his family make ends meet. He attended Harvard and Harvard Law School. As a student, he wrote a powerful Times Op-Ed about Vietnamese refugees — including his sister and nephew — stranded in Hong Kong. The piece helped win them refugee status, and eventually allowed them to immigrate to the United States.

Mr. Dinh arrived with the conservative politics of many refugees from Communism, and followed a pipeline from a Supreme Court clerkship with Sandra Day O’Connor to a role in the congressional investigations of Bill Clinton in the 1990s.

He was assistant attorney general for legal policy on 9/11, and he was “the fifth likeliest person” to wind up quarterbacking what would become the Patriot Act, said his old friend and colleague Paul Clement, who currently represents Fox in defamation lawsuits brought by two election technology companies. Mr. Dinh “led the effort to pull it all together, package it, present it to the Hill and get it passed,” said a former Bush White House homeland security adviser, Ken Wainstein. The package of legislation transformed the American security state, vastly expanding domestic surveillance and law enforcement powers. It allowed the F.B.I. to conduct secret and intrusive investigations of people and groups swept in by an expanded definition of terrorism.

Mr. Dinh was often mentioned at the time as a brilliant young lawyer who could easily wind up the first Asian-American on the Supreme Court. He was also notably image-conscious, and “worked the media like crazy,” recalled Jill Abramson, a former Times Washington bureau chief and later executive editor. He’s also a master Washington networker whose relationships cross party lines. His best college friend is a Democratic former U.S. attorney, Preet Bharara. Through the pandemic, Mr. Dinh left chipper comments on other lawyers’ job announcements on LinkedIn.

hiring a top Republican opposition researcher, Raj Shah, to monitor online criticism of the company and develop strategies for countering it.

Now, Mr. Dinh finds himself in the strange position of many of Rupert Murdoch’s top lieutenants: He is paid like a chief executive, and fills much of the larger strategic role that comes with that job. He also has the sort of leverage you need in a family business, a personal relationship with Lachlan Murdoch that allowed him to take on Mr. Rice, who is himself the son of a close Rupert Murdoch ally. But Mr. Dinh is still working for a business dominated by the need to follow Mr. Trump and Fox’s audience wherever they lead, lest they be overtaken by networks further to the right, like Newsmax. And the family ultimately retains control.

And Mr. Dinh’s own agenda can be hard to divine. In the interview with Mr. Lat, he largely repeated Fox News talking points about the quality and fairness of the network’s coverage. He did also express pride at Fox’s fleeting willingness to cross the president last fall, even though the network subsequently fired the political analysts who most angered Mr. Trump.

“There is no better historical record of Fox News’s excellent journalism than to see how the former president tweeted against Fox,” Mr. Dinh said.

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German Court Suspends Right to Surveil Far-Right AfD Party

For years Germany saw itself as immune to the nationalist movements driven by far-right rhetoric that disrupted the democracies in Hungary and Poland, by weakening the judiciary and the independence of the press. Watching the rise of Donald J. Trump in the American presidential race of 2016, many believed their country had been hardened to the lure of unvarnished nationalism and anti-establishment sentiment by the lessons of World War II.

But since winning 12.6 percent support in 2021, the AfD party has brought its anti-establishment stance, denigration of the press and casting Muslim immigrants as criminals to the floor of the German Parliament, where it has served as the largest opposition party.

During that time, the country has also seen a rise in far-right crime, including the killing of a regional politician on his front porch near the central city of Kassel, an attack on a synagogue in the eastern city of Halle and fatal shooting of nine people of immigrant descent in the western city of Hanau.

Increasingly concerned about the party’s positions, the domestic intelligence agency has spent two years scrutinizing the speeches and social media posts of AfD officials for evidence of extremism, including the demeaning of foreigners, questioning of the democratic system and dismissal of the crimes of the Nazis. An assessment amounting to some 1,100 pages concluded that the party’s position violated key principles of liberal democracy, not least Article 1 of the German Constitution, which states that human dignity is unassailable, officials said.

As part of its anti-establishment stance, AfD has also cast itself as the victim of political intrigue, fueled by incidents such as the leak to the press on Wednesday, said Axel Salheiser, who teaches at the Institute for Democracy and Civil Society at the University of Jena.

“This is proof that the checks and balances are functioning,” Mr. Salheiser said. “That is the paradox, they are always positioning the far-right fringe as a result of the system not functioning, but they are always quick to go before the courts, often successfully.”

The outcome of the final ruling could have an impact on how the AfD is viewed as German political parties begin gearing up for a general election on Sept. 26. That vote could see a reshuffling of the government after 16 years under the leadership of Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is not running again.

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