Chinese human rights activists back bill to crack down on Big Tech, China app market control

The bill will be considered in committee Thursday

Chinese human rights groups and activists have sent a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee announcing support for a bipartisan bill that would rein in the grip that Big Tech and China have on app markets. 

"We write as Chinese human rights activists, pro-democracy movements, national security experts, and members of persecuted religious communities to share our deep concerns with Apple’s use of its monopolistic dominance and its collusion with the Chinese government to stifle freedom of expression in China," the letter, written in support of the bipartisan Open App Markets Act and signed by dozens of human rights activists and organizations, states. 

"As the Committee considers legislation to rein in the abuses of tech firms, we encourage it to help dissenting voices and efforts to offer privacy and security tools in China through protecting the right to sideload, as included in the Open App Markets Act."

The bill is a relatively rare bipartisan effort introduced by Sens. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.

This March 19, 2018, file photo shows Apple's App Store app in Baltimore.


The letter includes examples of Apple cooperating with Chinese censorship, including blocking apps that provide support to Christians, supporters of democracy in Hong Kong, as well as the Uyghur and Tibetan community. 

"While our organizations have decades of expertise fight back against China’s repression, Apple’s complete dominance over iOS blocks us from offering tools to bypass censorship, prevent spying, and promote democracy," the letter says. 

"Our pleas and campaigns for Apple to do the right thing have been ignored by Apple’s leadership. If we were allowed to provide apps outside of the censored App Store, also known as sideloading, we would be able finally offer Chinese communities with tools to defeat the Great Firewall, such as Ultrasurf, Psiphon, and FreeGate. The Open App Markets Act’s protections for sideloading would help us open up the world to hundreds of millions more Chinese people living under repression aided by Apple."

The bill, which its sponsors argue "would set fair, clear, and enforceable rules to protect competition and strengthen consumer protections within the app market," will have a markup hearing on Thursday before being sent to the Senate floor. 

"Big Tech giants are forcing their own app stores on users at the expense of innovative start-ups," Blackburn said in a press release. "My colleagues and I are committed to ensuring U.S. consumers and small businesses are not punished by Big Tech giants like Apple and Google. American consumers should be able to benefit from a competitive app store marketplace and choose the products that suit their needs."


Google headquarters is seen in Mountain View, California, United States on Oct. 28, 2021. (Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images / Getty Images)

Blumenthal added in the press release that Apple and Google have "reigned over the multi-billion app market for years, restricting consumer choice and squashing competitors."


"There is clear, growing bipartisan momentum for the Open App Markets Act to break their ironclad grip, open the app economy to new competitors, and give users more control over their own devices," the Connecticut Democrat said.

The legislation, first introduced in August, also has the support of Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., Sen.  Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.

Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) questions Head of Instagram Adam Mosseri during a Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee hearing. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images / Getty Images)

Conservative policy organizations have urged the Senate to pass the bill and have attempted to make the case that it will allow app developers to tell consumers about lower prices and competitive offers, prevent side loading, open opportunities for startup apps and third-party app stores, and prevent app stores from taking advantage of developers.


"Gatekeeper control over [iOS and Android] operating systems and their app stores allow these two companies, Apple and Alphabet (Google), which have a combined market capitalization of more than $4 trillion, to exclusively dictate — without checks and balances — the rules of the road for app developers," a group of organizations, led by the American Principles Project, said in a letter to the Senate earlier this week. 

"This monopoly power stifles innovation and competition, hurts consumers and small businesses and creates an unequal playing field where some app developers are required to pay a 30 percent tax."

Eight out of ten app developers support the passage of the Open App Markets Act, according to data from the Coalition for App Fairness.

Apple and Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Fox News