New Apple human rights policy reflects balance of freedoms vs. local laws

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A statement on human rights was released by Apple. Apple supports free speech but not breaking laws.
Apple supports free speech but not breaking laws.
Photo: Romina Ordóñez/Pexels CC

Apple’s new statement on “Our Commitment to Human Rights” promises the company will make devices that respect human rights, including freedom of speech. But the company will also follow national laws.

The statement from the iPhone maker says, “We’ve worked hard to embed a respect for human rights across our company — in the technology we make, in the way we make it, and in how we treat people.” Specifically, it commits Apple “to freedom of information and expression.”

“At Apple, we are optimistic about technology’s awesome potential for good,” said CEO Tim Cook. But we know that it won’t happen on its own. Every day, we work to infuse the devices we make with the humanity that makes us.”

But Apple doesn’t promise to violate the laws of countries where the iPhone is sold, even when the company believes those laws go against human rights. “We respect national law while seeking to respect the principles of internationally recognized human rights.”

Apple caught in China’s restrictions on free speech

As an example of how Apple gets caught in the middle in the debate over human rights, the company caught flack last year from U.S. Democrats and Republicans after it removed from the Chinese App Store a live map application used by protestors in Hong Kong. The app was taken down at the request of Chinese officials.

Before that, the Quartz news app was removed from the App Store at the request of the Chinese government.

Source: Apple (pdf)