Apple restricts AirDrop file-sharing in China that protesters have used

Protests over China's strict COVID-19 restrictions have intensified in recent days

Protests have erupted across China in recent weeks against the country's zero-COVID policy, but citizens will no longer be able to take full advantage of their iPhones' AirDrop file sharing feature, which has frequently been used to bypass censorship and spread information about demonstrations. 

Under the latest software update, iOS 16.1.1, iPhone owners in China can only use AirDrop to receive files, images, and videos from other non-contacts for 10 minutes, according to 9to5Mac. Once that 10-minute window lapses, AirDrop shifts back to contacts only automatically. 

A man holds an iPhone 14

FILE PHOTO: A man holds an iPhone 14 as Apple Inc's new models go on sale at an Apple store in Beijing, China, September 16, 2022.  (REUTERS/Thomas Peter/File Photo / Reuters Photos)

Chinese protesters frequently used AirDrop to spread information to nearby citizens and avoid harsh censorship on social media and in other public places. 


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Apple did not respond to a request for comment on Sunday. Bloomberg reports that the company is planning to roll the 10-minute time restriction to iPhones worldwide in the coming year. 

China protest

People hold white sheets of paper in protest over COVID-19 restrictions, after a vigil for the victims of a fire in Urumqi, China, November 27, 2022.  (REUTERS/Thomas Peter / Reuters Photos)

China police

Police officers detain people during a protest against COVID-19 curbs at the site of a candlelight vigil for victims of the Urumqi fire, in Shanghai, China in this screengrab obtained from a video released on November 27, 2022.  (Video obtained by Reuters/via REUTERS / Reuters Photos)

Protests intensified in China after a fire at a residential building in the western city of Urumqi left 10 people dead on Thursday. 


Videos posted on social media suggested that the victims of the fire were locked in their apartments and first responders couldn't get to them due to coronavirus lockdowns. 

While the rest of the world has lifted many restrictions surrounding coronavirus, China has stuck with its zero-COVID policy and kept draconian measures in place to try to contain the virus' spread.