China Boom AppSource: Greyfish

What you need to know

  • Apple has removed a keyboard encryption app from its China App Store.
  • The app used tools like emojis to scramble messages and protect users from censorship.
  • The app has been removed because it contains "content that is illegal in China".

A Chinese keyboard app created to dodge censorship has been removed from the App Store by Apple.

As reported by Quartz:

Apple yesterday removed Boom the Encryption Keyboard, an app that allowed Chinese internet users to bypass censorship, from the China app store, according to its developer.

Wang Huiyu, a New York-based Chinese citizen in his 20s, told Quartz that he developed Boom together with one of his university classmates during the outbreak of the coronavirus. Part of the motivation for Wang to develop the app, which went live on Feb. 15, was to offer people a chance to counter rigid online surveillance and to provide them with an entertaining private messaging app.

According to an email sent by Apple to Wang, the app was removed because it contained "content that is illegal in China." The app is still available in other regions, including Hong Kong, he said.

The app was announced back in February stating:

With over a month of development, we are finally releasing the first version of BOOM. BOOM is an iOS third-party keyboard app that can encrypt texts into Emojis, Japanese Korean alphabets, and even completely different sentences. BOOM can do other cool trikcs lkie sarclmbed texts. Because it is a keyboard, no matter what app you are using, encryption can happen anywhere.

In a Tweet published yesterday, Wang Huiyu said:

The app, BOOM Encryption Keyboard, has been removed from the China mainland App Store solely and it is still available in other regions. Though the app doesn't aim counter-surveillance on purpose, it triggered and my multiple social media accounts have been removed premaritally

Several groups and the media have previously expressed concern over Apple's willingness to kowtow to Chinese government censorship requests, removing hundreds of apps from its App Store at the behest of authorities.