Apple widely removing generative AI apps from China’s App Store

Apple widely removing generative AI apps from China’s App Store

Dozens of generative AI apps were removed in a single day from China’s App Store. Credit: 123RF

On Tuesday, Apple removed more than one hundred AI-related apps that offered ChatGPT-style services from its China App Store. In a notice sent to affected developers, Apple stated that the removal was “pursuant to orders by the Chinese government” as the related content is deemed “illegal” in China.

Why it matters: The targeted removal of AI-related apps comes two weeks before the implementation of China’s artificial intelligence regulations. The action may send mixed signals to AI developers who aim to offer AI tools for users in China while striving to comply with the country’s regulations.

  • Dozens of generative AI apps were removed in a single day from China’s App Store, data from mobile application analysis platform Qimai shows, including apps powered by ChatGPT and domestic-grown iFlyTek’s AI chatbot SparkDesk.

Details: A source close to Chinese regulators said the reason for taking the apps off the store is that they are not standardized enough in terms of data collection and usage, according to local outlet China Star Market. The source added that it is expected to “take a long time” before these apps are allowed back to the store.

  • A developer behind OpenCat, a popular AI app that had a rating of 4.8 before its removal early Tuesday, shared a screenshot from Apple entitled App Review on Twitter, which stated that the Chinese government has tightened regulations over deep synthesis technologies and generative AI. OpenCat, powered by ChatGPT, did not secure a license from the Ministry of Industry and Information, which may have contributed to its removal from the App Store.
  • SparkDesk, an AI application developed by voice recognition company iFlyTek and built on its proprietary large language model, has been relaunched on the iOS Marketplace 12 hours after it was taken offline. 
  • Search giant Baidu’s ERNIE Bot is still available for download on the Chinese App Store, with only those with invitation codes having access to the chatbot service.

Context: As the latest wave of artificial intelligence-related products continues to spread worldwide, governments are racing to keep pace with the rapidly developing technology. China is set to implement new AI restrictions starting August 15, aiming to regulate the development and deployment of AI within the country. 

  • The new AI rules in China require companies providing generative AI services to the public to “adhere to core socialist values,” and refrain from publishing content that jeopardizes national interests or spreads false information. 
  • The regulations also emphasize that AI-related services will be treated with an “inclusive and prudent attitude,” indicating an attempt to foster innovation while ensuring compliance.

Cheyenne Dong

Cheyenne Dong is a tech reporter now based in Shanghai. She covers e-commerce and retail, AI, and blockchain. Connect with her via e-mail: cheyenne.dong[a]
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