China wants to restrict the use of local file-sharing services such as AirDrop and Bluetooth in a move that will expand its censorship machine.
The national internet censor has launched a month-long public consultation on the proposals. They want
service providers to prevent the spread of unapproved information, among other things. Bluetooth, AirDrop and such file-sharing services are crucial tools in China, where the Great Firewall has resulted in one of the mostly tightly-controlled
internet regimes. In recent years, anti-government protesters have often turned to AirDrop to organise and share their political demands.
AirDrop is especially popular among activists because it relies on Bluetooth connections between close-range
devices, allowing them to share information with strangers without revealing their personal details or going through a centralised network that can be monitored and blocked.
Apple has released a new version of the feature in China, limiting its
scope. Now Chinese users of iPhones and other Apple devices are restricted to a 10-minute window when receiving files from people who are not listed as a contact. After 10 minutes, users can only receive files from contacts. Apple did not explain why the
update was first introduced in China, but over the years, the tech giant has been criticised for appeasing Beijing.
Proposals unveiled by the Cyberspace Administration of China require users to prevent and resist the production, copying and
distribution of undesirable information. Those who do not comply must be reported to the authorities, the draft regulations say. Users must also register with their real name before they can use these file-sharing services, and the service must be turned
off by default.