For some reason, AirDrop feels like the quintessential Apple
feature. It is used to share files between nearby iPhone units and has, in the past, been criticized when some users shared pornographic images and sound with fellow iPhone owners on the New York City subway and even on airplanes
. In the latest iOS 16.1.1 update, Chinese iPhone users received something special just for them and it is related to AirDrop.
The AirDrop feature was being used to get around China’s online censorship policy and allowed iPhone users in the country to share images against the Chinese government. Just a few weeks ago, AirDrop was used to distribute posters criticizing President Xi Jinping. So in China, when a user’s AirDrop app is set to receive files from “Everyone,” it will automatically change to “Contacts Only” after a ten-minute period. This will limit the ability of protesters to randomly distribute anti-government posters, images, and other files since it requires that an iPhone user sending unwelcome material be on the recipient’s contacts list.
These anti-Xi posters were distributed in China via AirDrop
The new feature wasn’t even found in the iOS 16.1.1 release notes in China but was noted by iPhone users throughout the country on China’s Weibo social media platform. And while the feature is limited to iPhone units purchased in China, Apple told Bloomberg
that it will be coming to global users in the coming year. And this makes sense since changing the AirDrop setting and limiting it to “Contacts Only” after ten minutes might also prevent you from seeing the XXX-rated images that some AirDrop users love to send on a random basis.
Update in China limits AirDrop users from receiving files from everyone to a 10-minute window
Now if you have someone in your contacts list who likes to send pornographic images via AirDrop, or who likes to protest against the government in China, your best bet might be to disable the service on your iPhone by selecting the “Receiving Off” option.
Apple has been attacked before for giving in too much to China such as when it removed VPN apps from the App Store in the country. These apps protect user privacy when online so that even the Chinese government could not track iPhone users using one. But since Apple plans on making the 10-minute “Everyone” window a global AirDrop feature during the coming year, the company can write this off as a test rather than admitting to kowtowing to a request from the Chinese government.