LGBTQ dating app Grindr has been removed from the Apple App Store in China, and is also unavailable on popular Android app marketplaces, Bloomberg reports. The app reportedly disappeared from the iOS App Store on January 27th, although it’s unclear when it was removed from the country’s popular Android app stores — which are operated by local companies like Huawei and Tencent in the absence of the Google Play Store.
The apparent removals follow the Chinese government’s announcement last week that it would be cracking down on illegal content, pornography, and “ill-natured” activities online, Bloomberg previously reported. The tightening of restrictions comes ahead of China hosting the Winter Olympics in Beijing, which are due to kick off later this week. While homosexuality isn’t illegal in China, observers have noted that government policies have been increasingly intolerant, and Beijing censors have taken issue with gay themes in media.
Ahead of the winter olympics
App store removals have become common in China in recent years, and have hit services focused on everything from news, to podcasts, and maps, apparently due to fears they could be used to access unsavory content or facilitate activities deemed illegal in the country. Gaming apps have also proved to be a frequent target, with tens of thousands having been removed. Last year a popular Quran app also disappeared.
The environment has proved challenging for foreign tech companies, some of whom have withdrawn services from the market. Microsoft announced it would be sunsetting its Chinese LinkedIn service in October, and the following month Epic Games shut down the Chinese version of Fortnite.
Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Grindr’s removal. But the company outlines its approach to dealing with human rights abroad in this document where it notes that it’s “required to comply with local laws, and at times there are complex issues about which we may disagree with governments and other stakeholders on the right path forward.”
Although Grindr, which is among the world’s most well-known LGBTQ dating apps, has been removed, Bloomberg reports that local alternatives like Blued are still available in the country. Until early 2020, Grindr was owned by a Chinese company — Beijing Kunlun Tech — but that year it announced it was selling the service to the US-based company San Vicente Acquisition after US authorities expressed national security concerns.