U.S. Rep. Dusty Johnson (R-SD) published a tweet on Dec. 1 concerning accusations that Apple has begun limiting AirDrops between iPhone users who don't have each other saved as contacts to 10 minutes at a time before automatically resetting and halting the sharing.
The update featuring this, iOS 16.1.1, has only been put into place in China, where it has been severely hindering the ability of Chinese citizens to share content and messages with each other regarding protests and other information that would otherwise be censored by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). The protest-related material is focused on the most recent COVID-19 lockdown protocols that the Chinese government has enacted. Apple has since been accused of supporting the CCP through censorship and hindering protest efforts.
"One part of @Apple's recent update limits AirDrop capabilities for anyone in China. It’s aiding the CCP’s censorship of speech and stifling pro-democracy protests," Johnson wrote. "I’m looking for answers. I sent a letter to @tim_cook questioning his decision to roll out this limited feature."
According to Apple Support, AirDrop allows users to wirelessly send documents, photos, videos, websites, map locations and other content to nearby Mac, iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch products.
China's zero-COVID policy, which has led to severe lockdowns nationwide, has also sparked massive protests in response, according to Fox Business. CNN also reported that protests have grown more intense following a fire that broke out in the western Chinese city of Urumqi. State-run media reported that 10 people died and 9 people were injured, although locals insist that the numbers are much higher. The fire's danger was exacerbated by numerous factors, including several residents that were locked inside of their apartments due to a previously positive COVID-19 case banning them from leaving, as well as several street-level lockdown restrictions that hindered firefighters' efforts to get into the building. Furious residents blamed the deaths on the lockdown measures.
Johnson was first elected to represent South Dakota's at-large Congressional District in 2019. He currently sits on both the House Committee on Agriculture and the House Committee on Education and Labor.