App developers who would like to publish their apps on the iOS App Store in China will now be required to show proof of a government-issued license. Apple began enforcing the new requisite last Friday, joining other app stores that have long complied with that law (via Reuters).
Apple is now asking developers to submit the “internet content provider (ICP) filing” when attempting to publish apps on the App Store. Developers who seek to obtain an ICP license must register a local company in China or publish their apps through a “local publisher,” which has long been viewed as an entry barrier for developers residing overseas.
The ICP system has been in place for a few years, having been a legal requirement for websites and online services to operate in China. Reuters notes that most local app marketplaces – including Tencent and Huawei – have been compliant with the law since 2017, and Apple is now forced to comply as the Chinese government is tightly enforcing its regulations.
Apple’s relaxed approach to the ICP in the past was seen as a loophole that allowed unauthorized US-based apps like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter to be accessed and used in China with the help of VPNs. In August, China aimed to remedy this loophole by issuing specific regulations that explicitly require all app stores and developers to present their business details alongside app submissions.
Representatives from Apple reportedly met Chinese government officials over the course of the last few months to express their concerns over the new rule but to no avail. The company could be faced with heavy fines in case apps are found to skirt this rule, with a defenitive deadline for existing app running till next March and another for new apps till September.