Those in China who look at the top of the Apple News feed, which would normally display a list of selected article, instead see an error message.

Share story

HONG KONG — Apple has disabled its news app in China, according to a person with direct knowledge of the situation, the most recent sign of how difficult it can be for foreign companies to manage the strict rules governing media and online expression there.

The Apple News app, announced in June, is available only to users in the United States, although it is being tested in Britain and Australia. Customers who downloaded the app by registering their phones in the United States can still see content in it when they travel overseas — but they have found that does not work in China.

Those in China who look at the top of the Apple News feed, which would normally display a list of articles based on a user’s preferred media, instead see an error message: “Can’t refresh right now. News isn’t supported in your current region.” Appledeclined to comment.

Greater China is Apple’s second-largest source of revenue after the United States, with sales of more than $13 billion in the third quarter. That means Apple is most likely taking a careful approach to delivering new content, such as that on its news app, within China.

Beijing generally insists companies are responsible for censoring content inside China. In Apple’s case, that would mean it would probably have to develop a censorship system — most Chinese companies use a combination of automated software and employees — to eliminate sensitive articles.

For now, Apple seems to be avoiding the problem by completely disabling the service for users in China.