China: Apple Institutes Government Licensing Mandate for New Apps amid Tightening Regulatory Oversight

Apple will require app developers to provide an "internet content provider (ICP) filing" when launching new apps on its platform for inclusion in the China App Store.

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Following the tightening of state regulations, has initiated a policy that will require upcoming apps to furnish a licence issued by the Chinese government. This stipulation must be met before these apps can be released on the company's App Store. With the decision Apple has finally joined the rank of local competitors who had enforced this policy years earlier.

Content Provider Filing Requirement

According to Apple's official communication for app developers, the company would start asking app creators to submit an internet content provider (ICP) filing during the release of new apps on its platform as of last Friday. This registration system, a longstanding protocol for legal operation of websites in China, has been widely adopted by local , including those run by Tencent and Huawei since 2017.

To obtain an ICP filing license, developers must either establish a company in China or collaborate with a local publisher. This has proven to be a formidable challenge for numerous foreign applications.

Affected Global Apps and Apple's Future in China

Apple's compliance status may impinge on the accessibility of hundreds of thousands of applications on its mainland China App Store, including high-profile foreign apps such as X, previously known as Twitter, and Telegram, which saw a surge in popularity during anti-COVID-19 lockdown protests last year.

However, the Cupertino company may have hit another roadblock as Beijing security authorities intensify their oversight, with certain government agencies barring personnel from using iPhones.

Demanding the ICP filings from developers propels Apple towards complete compliance within the Chinese market. This development follows China's rule issued in August that necessitates all app stores and app developers to submit an “app filing” with business details to regulatory authorities.

Concerns have emerged among developers about Apple's new policy, fearing it may lead to stricter control to conform entirely to China's rules. These fears could potentially lead developers to remove their apps from the Chinese App Store.

According to the new , apps that fail to submit the necessary filings will face sanctions after a grace period ending in March of the next year. New apps, on the other hand, must adhere to the rule as of September 2023.