Apple has limited the use of the AirDrop wireless file sharing feature on devices in China, just weeks after the reports that some protesters had used the popular function to spread messages critical of the Chinese government.
iPhone users in mainland China who updated their iOS software this week can send or receive files from people who aren’t contacts for just 10 minutes after manually selecting a new “Everyone for 10 minutes” option, according to tests carried out by CNN’s Beijing office.
Users outside of China do not face this restriction and can receive files wirelessly from anyone, including non-contacts.
According to the CNN team, the change does not appear to affect iPhones in use in China that were purchased outside the country. Apple ( AAPL ) told CNN Business that the new feature will be rolled out globally next year.
The update comes just weeks after reports in international media, including The New York Times and Vice World News, that some residents in China were using AirDrop, which can only be used between Apple devices, to spread flyers and images echoing ‘slogans used in a rar. protest against Chinese leader Xi Jinping on October 13.
That day, shortly before Xi won a record-breaking third term, two banners were hung on an overpass of a major road in northwest Beijing, protesting against Xi’s zero-Covid policy and authoritarian rule .
And in 2019, AirDrop, which is only effective over short distances, was particularly popular among anti-government protesters in Hong Kong who regularly used the feature to throw colorful posters and artwork at subway passengers urging them to participate in the protests
Chinese media reaction to the software update was mixed. News website Sohu.com wrote that the feature was designed to address the specific problem of subway and bus passengers receiving annoying messages.
But others criticized Apple on Chinese social media. The US tech giant has been accused of appeasing Chinese authorities before, including pulling the app for shopping website Quartz from its China store over “content concerns” during the 2019 protests in Hong Kong .