How Apple uses anti-competitive practices to extort developers and support authoritarian regimes

Illustration of the Apple monopoly

Last week, the European Commission announced, in response to a complaint filed by Spotify, that it would be opening an investigation into Apple’s App Store practices, which potentially constitutes an illegal breach of EU competition laws. At Proton, we applaud this decision, and also Spotify’s bravery in bringing this complaint in the first place. 

Following years of advertising itself as a company that puts users first, Apple has increasingly aligned itself with oppressive governments and curtailed digital freedom. There was a time when Apple portrayed itself as a rebellious alternative to giants like Microsoft. Today, Apple has become a monopoly, crushing potential competitors with exploitative fees and conducting censorship on behalf of dictators.

Latest: Four misleading claims Big Tech CEOs told Congress

American tech giants have long engaged in abusive behavior which is designed to stifle dissent and competition, and perpetuate their market dominance. We know this because we have quietly tolerated this exploitation for years. And like many others, we have long hesitated to speak out for fear that these tech giants may abuse their market dominance to destroy all who dare to stand up against them. 

However, we believe we can no longer in good conscience stay silent, and the recent and ongoing antitrust investigations against Apple in the United States and Europe help to validate our position. We have come to believe Apple has created a dangerous new normal allowing it to abuse its monopoly power through punitive fees and censorship that stifles technological progress, creative freedom, and human rights. Even worse, it has created a precedent that encourages other tech monopolies to engage in the same abuses. 

Apple is using its monopoly to hold all of us hostage

Apple’s iOS controls 25% of the global smartphone market (the other 75%, is largely controlled by Google’s Android). This means that for over a billion people (particularly in the US where their market share approaches 50%), the only way to install apps is through the App Store. This gives Apple enormous influence over the way software is created and consumed around the world.

Perhaps the most harmful expression of this power is Apple’s exorbitant 30% tax on developers, which is now the subject of antitrust investigations in both the United States and the European Union. To be clear, this is an enormous fee and would be intolerable in normal market conditions, but it’s particularly damaging if you offer a product that competes with Apple. It is hard to stay competitive if you are forced to pay your competitor 30% of all of your earnings. 

Apple attempts to justify these fees by arguing that the App Store is no different from a mall, where companies seeking to offer their products must pay rent to the owner of the mall (in this case, Apple). This argument conveniently ignores the fact that there is just a single mall when it comes to iOS and no possibility of a competing mall to rent space from. It is not illegal for Apple to own a mall and rent space, nor is it illegal for Apple to own the only mall. What is illegal, is exploiting the fact that it owns the only mall to charge excessively high pricing which harms competitors. 

This is virtually indistinguishable from a protection racket: It is a fee that developers must pay if they want to stay in business. And it is a fee which ultimately harms consumers because these fees are indirectly passed on to users, either through higher prices, or through fewer competing products in the marketplace. 

After the European Commission launched its investigation on June 16, Apple released a statement saying “the European Commission is advancing baseless complaints from a handful of companies who simply want a free ride.”

This comment reveals the callousness with which Apple has hijacked and strangled the creativity that once flourished on the Internet. If only a handful of the most powerful companies have complained (such as Spotify), it is because Apple’s market dominance leaves small developers powerless to object: Either fall in line or be removed from the App Store, with no possibility to appeal. 

Apple has now even gone so far as to ban apps from the App Store if they refuse to offer in-app purchases for paid features that are available for purchase elsewhere. In other words, Apple wants a nearly one-third cut of your sales, regardless of whether you want to sell on their platform or not. This was precisely what happened with Proton.

As we know from any mafia trial, the absence of witnesses willing to take the stand does not imply there was no crime, it only serves to highlight the power of the accused. By taking the stand today, we want to clearly refute Apple’s claim that only a “handful of companies” are objecting to these practices.

Apple helps propagate authoritarian laws globally

While it is improper (and illegal) to leverage market dominance for anti-competitive purposes, leveraging this power to suppress digital freedom is simply unethical, and it is long overdue that somebody called out Apple for this behavior. As first-hand witnesses to this behavior, we can share our story. 

In January 2020, ProtonVPN submitted an update of its iOS app description in the App Store. The new description highlighted ProtonVPN’s features, including the ability to “unblock censored websites” with the app. 

Even though ProtonVPN had been in the App Store since 2018 and the basic functionality of our VPN has not changed, Apple abruptly rejected the new app version and threatened to remove ProtonVPN entirely. They demanded that we remove this language around anti-censorship on the grounds that freedom of speech is severely limited in some countries. The options are comply or be removed from the App Store. What is most troubling is that Apple requested the removal of the language around censorship in ALL countries where our app is available, in effect doing the bidding of authoritarian governments even in countries where freedom of speech is protected.

It is true that in countries around the world, such as China, South Sudan, and Saudi Arabia, freedom of speech is indeed severely limited, and thousands of activists have been killed or imprisoned for expressing themselves. However, by conceding to tyrants and enforcing the lowest common denominator, Apple is ignoring internationally recognized human rights and forfeiting progress we all enjoy and which activists have paid for with their lives.

One of the biggest threats to democracy and freedom in the 21st century is Internet censorship, and in this regard VPNs are one of the best tools available to empower people with access to independent sources of accurate information. The free flow of ideas — along with the right to keep your ideas private — is one of the first principles of democracy. 

Related: Why antitrust is really about privacy

This is apparently a principle that Apple no longer believes in. For example, Apple willingly complies with Chinese laws that restrict users’ access to thousands of apps and that require foreign companies to store the data of its citizens within the country and make them available to authorities. Even Google has gone further to resist such Chinese pressure.

What we find unacceptable, however, is that Apple is using its market dominance to also force other companies which might otherwise be willing to make a stand to also be complicit in human rights abuses. This extends beyond limiting our ability to fight against censorship with our app. 

In China, Apple has censored news platforms such as The New York Times and Bloomberg News, while in Hong Kong it blocked the access to the HKMaps app that supported the local democracy protests. It has also agreed to delete dozens of apps, including podcasts, that China says violate local censorship laws. 

As part of Proton’s mission to make privacy and digital freedom universally accessible, we developed ProtonVPN, the world’s first free and unlimited VPN service that does not track or log users’ activity. We are on the front lines of the global fight for freedom and recently ranked third in the Hong Kong App Store during the Hong Kong freedom protests. By censoring ProtonVPN’s app description in order to comply with authoritarian government requests, Apple is making it incrementally more difficult for people to exercise their fundamental human rights and sending a clear signal that profits come before people. 

With great power (and profits) comes great responsibility

Despite its own portrayal as a paragon of human rights, the instances where Apple has proven itself as a defender of these rights have become rarer in recent years. The level of compromise it is willing to make on freedom of speech has startled even its own investors — the number of shareholders demanding the company uphold basic human rights has been increasing.

Last year, Apple reported record profits of $55 billion, making it the world’s most profitable tech company. We do not object to Apple making money, and they are entitled to try to make as much money as possible. However, like any company, Apple must also follow the law, including competition laws, and on this point, we strongly support and endorse the EU’s move to hold Apple accountable. 

We also believe that tech companies, particularly those with $55 billion in profits, have a minimum moral responsibility to uphold human rights, even if it is not legally enforceable. It is however, enforceable by us, as consumers. By choosing who we give money to, we signal what we consider to be an acceptable minimum moral responsibility.

We hope that by taking a stand today, we can also embolden others to speak out and work towards creating a more equitable, free, and just society. Are you also a victim of Apple’s abusive practices? Let us know at legal@protonmail.com.

Best Regards,
The Proton Team

You can get a free secure email account from ProtonMail here.

We also provide a free VPN service to protect your privacy.ProtonMail and ProtonVPN are funded by community contributions. If you would like to support our development efforts, you can upgrade to a paid plan. Thank you for your support.

About the Author

Andy Yen

Andy is the Founder and CEO of ProtonMail. Originally from Taiwan, he is a long time advocate of privacy rights and has spoken at TED, SXSW, and the Asian Investigative Journalism Conference about online privacy issues. Previously, Andy was a research scientist at CERN and received his PhD in Particle Physics from Harvard University. You can watch his TED talk online to learn more about ProtonMail's mission.

 

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46 comments on “How Apple uses anti-competitive practices to extort developers and support authoritarian regimes

  • Apple – yuck.

    Apple is a colorful overlay that supports throat-ripping tyrants. Apple hopes the public only focuses on the bright colors.

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  • I have never been more proud to be a customer and supporter of a company than I am now! Thank you for helping the world be more free!

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  • Here here. Apple is absolutely no better than Microsoft, Google, or any other giant tech company. All of them violate basic rights, often laws, and do not get punished for it with any significant means.

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  • Exceptional post however , I was wanting to know if you could write a litte more on this topic?
    I’d be very grateful if you could elaborate a little bit more.
    Thank you!

    Reply
  • I thought Apple was above this type of behavior, but I guess not. Naive of me. What are some possible comparable replacements if I no longer wish to support a company who engages in this behavior? Android is a hard pill for me to swallow because…well, Google is terrible all around. Any recommendations?

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  • The other problem with monopolistic American corporate entities like Apple and Google is that they love and aim to please one country above all others: China (to be fair they have lots of company: the NBA, the Democratic Party, etc.). It’s hard for China’s Communist Party to directly confront the USA so they attack smaller weaker countries that have “distanced” themselves from the USA (because blah blah blah Donald Trump or whatever). Two Canadians are being held in indefinite detention in China and will be tried & convicted for espionage. A third Canadian was forced to renounce her citizenship. Canada’s elite, much like Apple, is urging capitulation. Uighurs and Hong Kong democracy activists are subject to arbitrary detention. Apple (and Google) believe it is best to appease the totalitarian fascistic central committee of the Chinese Communist Party. Ironically once their own executives and business partners are detained without trial in secretive prisons Apple will have been complicit in encouraging the behaviour of the CCP. Don’t worry though, Apple made a large donation to the Southern Poverty Law Center to fight “hate”. The SPLC quickly gave Tim Cook a prize for his stunning bravery. We shouldn’t be surprised that a corporation like Apple uses propagandistic communication & branding along with megalomaniacal control of competition. This is the political and workplace culture they admire most.

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  • This is Apple at its most cowardly and shameful. They should do better because they can afford to do better.

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  • I fully support the EU antitrust investigations. 30% is a ridiculous amount to charge for what they provide. Keep in mind that you must also pay $99 per year to distribute an app in Apple’s app stores. Apple said recently that it has more than 20 million developer accounts, which means that it already receives about $2 billion each year. How much does its app stores actually cost to operate? Is it more than $2 billion each year? And if so, does it justify an extra 30% cut of every transaction made in an app?

    I actually support developer’s being required to use the built-in in-app payment system, but I don’t think Apple should get a 30% cut. Note that payment operators like Visa and MasterCard can’t charge more than 0.2% of a transaction in the EU. I think Apple should acknowledge that developers already pay it $99 a year to use its app stores and reduce its fee to no more than 5%. That fee should be limited to digital goods only (as now), and direct competitors offering competing services (such as Spotify, Netflix, Amazon Kindle etc) should be exempt from the 5% fee. Also, developers should be able to advertise sign ups outside of their apps. At the moment, Spotify, for example, cannot tell people using its iOS app to go to its website to sign up and pay for its service.

    Personally, I actually think that the app stores should be spun out into a subsidiary of Apple and run independently at arms length, applying the exact same rules to Apple’s apps as other developers’ apps, similar to Openreach and BT in the UK. Apple would still own the stores, it would still get the money, and it could still create the rules, but an independent panel would enforce those rules without interference from Apple.

    I think it’s stupid that Apple stopped you from posting that description for your app. Although I will say that Apple is required to follow the law, like you said yourself. You should be allowed to post that description in the West but I understand that you can’t post that in places like China. I also sympathise somewhat with Apple over locating its Chinese-serving servers in China itself. That’s China’s law. Apple can challenge the US and EU governments because they are democratic and follow the rule of law (mostly). China doesn’t. If Apple doesn’t obey then they will be kicked out, which doesn’t help Apple and doesn’t Chinese people who want to use an Apple device. And like when Apple didn’t sell iPhone’s in China, all that meant was that Chinese companies would copy the iPhone almost exactly and then sell it in China themselves, meaning others profit off of Apple’s work. It’s also what has allowed some Chinese companies to become so big and now rival Apple and others outside of China.

    Finally, I’ll just add that Google pulling out of China wasn’t all that brave. Keep in mind that Google’s products are its software and algorithms. If it operated in China then China could easily steal those (almost like copy-pasting for software) and then compete with Google using Google’s own product. Google didn’t leave China for the human rights. It left because China could steal its software products much easier than it can Apple’s hardware products.

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  • For some reason, I just got the notice of this article today. Thank you so much for taking a stand and I am glad to be a user of many years of protonmail services because your values converge with mine. This would be a very different word if tech giants behaved more decently and used their financial power to advance democracy and human rights. I have used Apple products for some time. And now because of this shameful and hypocritical behavior of Apple, plus the audacity to spin itself as a privacy champion, I would now like to migrate to another more secure, responsible and ethical computer platform. In conscience, I cannot continue supporting a company with such an outrageous behavior. However, I do not want to support Google’s android, for Google is another tech giant pushing its weight around and doing massive censorship on a number of issues including alternative scientific perspectives on COVID-19.. Any suggestions in this direction will be much appreciated, even if sent privately to my protonmail email address.

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    • Unfortunately, this is the problem with the current duopoly. We need more options for online products and services that respect users’ privacy.

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  • Frankly, I’m shocked having to read such non-sensical drivel from the CEO itself. There is so much utter garbage that is devoid of facts and reason, I doubt PR or legal proofread any of this. I mean, wow. Where to begin?

    “Apple is using its monopoly to hold all of us hostage” yet “Apple’s iOS controls 25% of the global smartphone market (the other 75%, is largely controlled by Google’s Android).”
    The first sentence completely contradicts the second. Controlling 25% in a market with other options is not a monopoly. Just because Apple controls its own product/platform does not make it illegal or monopolistic. Similar cases haven been litigated in court times and times again where so called “competitors” tried to make a business out of selling non-Mac PCs with macOS. Apple always won those cases and put the ones that tried out of business. Why, because Apple does not hold a monopoly in the PC market.

    “Perhaps the most harmful expression of this power is Apple’s exorbitant 30% tax on developers.” “To be clear, this is an enormous fee and would be intolerable in normal market conditions, but it’s particularly damaging if you offer a product that competes with Apple. It is hard to stay competitive if you are forced to pay your competitor 30% of all of your earnings.”
    It is not exorbitant at all, it is very much in line with what other store fronts ask for, in various other industries. But just for a taste, try selling a photo on a stock photography website. Have fun finding one that gives you 70% of the earnings. It’s rather the other way around, the photographer gets 30% if you’re lucky.
    These fees are the cost of doing business and you calculate that into your business upfront. It is either worth it or you stay out of that business. Clearly 100’s of thousand of developers make that business work for them.

    “What is illegal, is exploiting the fact that it owns the only mall to charge excessively high pricing which harms competitors.”
    Again, it is not excessive as evidenced by dozens of other stores in various industries. Just because you don’t like it doesn’t mean it’s excessive, nor illegal. Some arbitrary pricing would suddenly making it legal/illegal? Which pricing is ok? I mean, that argument is absolutely nuts. You either take it or leave it.

    “This is virtually indistinguishable from a protection racket: It is a fee that developers must pay if they want to stay in business.”
    Wow, so Apple held a gun to your head to become an iOS developer? You knew these terms and conditions upfront and still decided to enter into business with Apple. Someone clearly didn’t read the contract. It’s not iTunes, you don’t just click “Accept”.
    “And it is a fee which ultimately harms consumers because these fees are indirectly passed on to users, either through higher prices, or through fewer competing products in the marketplace.”
    I’m sorry, which one is it now, harming the consumer or the developer? Again, millions of consumers clearly are willing to pay for whatever developers are charging. People vote with their wallets. They can decide to take their business elsewhere and they do all the time, otherwise Apple would indeed have a monopoly.

    “Apple has now even gone so far as to ban apps from the App Store if they refuse to offer in-app purchases for paid features that are available for purchase elsewhere.”
    This highly simplifies the rules and does not represent the actual stipulations. Again, reading is key.

    “Apple helps propagate authoritarian laws globally” “However, by conceding to tyrants and enforcing the lowest common denominator, Apple is ignoring internationally recognized human rights and forfeiting progress we all enjoy and which activists have paid for with their lives.”
    So much hyperbole and insinuated causation, without evidence. All over a minor description change which isn’t even true: “unblock censored websites” is definitely not the case in one of those authoritarian countries where they block VPNs outright. ProtonVPN is useless in China for example. Have you considered that Apple doesn’t want to have its customers mislead and that’s why the description was rejected? Of course that’s global because you obviously wouldn’t even find ProtonVPN in a country with VPN restrictions because the app is banned on the store anyway.

    “For example, Apple willingly complies with Chinese laws that restrict users’ access to thousands of apps and that require foreign companies to store the data of its citizens within the country and make them available to authorities. Even Google has gone further to resist such Chinese pressure.” “In China, Apple has censored news platforms such as The New York Times and Bloomberg News, while in Hong Kong it blocked the access to the HKMaps app that supported the local democracy protests. It has also agreed to delete dozens of apps, including podcasts, that China says violate local censorship laws.”
    Apple certainly doesn’t do that willingly, they are being forced to do so otherwise their whole business will be banned from China. That includes hardware, manufacturing/assembly and worldwide supply chains. None of which Google has to contend with. But you knew all these very obvious facts, yet you still go on spewing nonsense to seemingly make a point.

    “By censoring ProtonVPN’s app description in order to comply with authoritarian government requests, Apple is making it incrementally more difficult for people to exercise their fundamental human rights and sending a clear signal that profits come before people.”
    So that updated three-word description, which isn’t even universally true, is somehow “making it incrementally more difficult for people to exercise their fundamental human rights”? You seriously believe in that statement? Those most be some strong drugs.

    For a CEO that should (hopefully) understand something about business and a Taiwanese who should understand how an authoritarian regime like China works, I’m sorely disappointed with this post. Stick to physics, that seems to be more your field of expertise.

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    • Hi Eric, thanks for your in-depth response. It doesn’t seem like I’ll be able to persuade you, but I would like to comment on a few of your points. First of all, the App Store does indeed have a monopoly over app distribution on iOS, which is extremely valuable real estate. Being on the App Store is basically synonymous with being in business. One-quarter of the smartphone market is one quarter of a global duopoly. With this power, Apple (and Google) can dictate the terms of the market, which is antithetical to standard notions of free market capitalism. Whether Apple’s 30% fee is fair or not is really beside the point: For one, it would likely be smaller in a competitive marketplace. Moreover, the fee does not apply to Apple or to free apps that profit by abusing people’s data. The developers who are hurt by the status quo are those trying to innovate with privacy-friendly business models which do not treat users as products.

      Reply
  • Maybe it’s time to look for an alliance, and for people to take action, and to think.
    The power of those companies and countries is huge, and no one can stand alone. And I’m afraid it’s likely to get much worse.
    I think that only peer/shared actions can find a way:
    – Blockchain allowed smart contracts and even money, using people’s resources
    – Companies like airbnb or uber only used people’s resources (pretending to be shared economy, which they are not)
    – Facebook or twitter are fed by their users
    – Amazon uses other shop’s resources, and buyer’s good will for reviews, answers…
    and so on.
    But there are places where people still share some values against all that. Here in ProtonMail, in open source places, NGO, Tor users, and so on.
    Join, and find alternatives. Share resources; maybe people can act a proxies to hide the original users, individuals can join and create real p2p associations (you can share your house, but also food, items, electricity or biomass, time, powerforce… and even trade one for others). Create some shared certification so only human-caring companies can get it. Even create or join some “open-source-minded” political parties… All of those ideas have something in common: (responsible) people (that take action).

    Reply
  • I am disgusted with Apple, My hardware is an Apple Mac Mini but I am running Linux Mint on it and I would encourage everybody to get rid of all Microsoft and Mac Software and to ditch anything that has to do with the Technocrat dictatorship companies and go over to Open Source software ASAP. I have just set up a Raspberry Pi micro computer running Raspbian Linux software. Soon I shall be using only the Raspberry Pi for email and browsing until I can afford to buy the hardware to set up a more powerful custom built computer system from scratch which I will run completely on Linux Software. I am also in the process of going over completely to Proton Mail and will set up VPN too.
    Then I will be independent of these Greedy Technocratic maniacs for ever.
    Moonfox Dragonfire, Wales UK.

    Reply
  • Thanks for the great article. I have, for some time, tried to change my Apple identity email from gmail to protonmail. Alas, it is possible to change to any other mail provider but Proton. I knew some manipulation was happening but thought it was just because you are Swiss based and Apple had some issue with the supposed privacy of Swiss banking. No, it’s because you are a secure site and can’t be read by Apple or manipulated by Apple. I am sick of Apple, Google, Twitter, Facebook and such having such control. I am a conservative and the attacks by the Tech Mafia on Conservative thought have gotten worse and worse. Political speech is a fundamental right of all Americans, and some Europeans. It would appear that the tag “hate” speech now refers to any speech that disagrees with me. I am signing up to the next level, although I will probably not make much use of the increased services. You have my support.

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  • I used to be a Mac user but abandoned the platform when it became clear that Apple the freedom fighter became a tyrant once in power. Almost as bad as Apple is the army of rabid Apple fans who will excuse any transgression because Apple is doing it. Antitrust law should be better enforced and should be stronger, banning artificial lock-in. For example, Apple should not be able to use DRM to block 3rd party chargers.

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  • Just a small request but would you mind holding back 1% of the profit you’re promising to the very worthy HK cause to spend on a Developer to work on Linux Import/Export program so that I can get myself off gmail.

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  • To the leadership…to gain the loyalty that Google possesses, you need to provide an equal product. Since your lack the productivity tools, 15gb of email, calendar and at least equal free cloud storage, you will the draw more people the platform

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  • Dear Andy,

    Interesting read. I support what you have to say. I work in healthcare, so I am quite aware of privacy vs shared information. If you are not monitoring user login and I assume you are also not monitoring file sharing via email, how do you know if for example, pedophiles are transferring pictures of innocent children? Like you say, “ With great power comes great responsibility”.

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  • I agree and I would add Alphabet (and by extension Google), FB Twitter et.al., to that list. While Freedom loving people in Hong Kong fight for the right to BE, ‘some’ people here in America, fight for the opposite. It is incomprehensible – the world is, inverse.

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  • Hi Andy:
    You’ve written a wonderful article(s) and I’m glad Proton is speaking out. As a resident of the USA my entire life, I’m 65 years in age, I’ve witnessed the ruthlessness, belligerence, selfishness, and cruelty of the USA since the Vietnam war and before. As a physician, I’ve seen countless acts of medical interference and suppression mounted against doctors by the FDA, which is controlled by the evil pharmaceutical cartel. This cartel influences medical education (sic) by promoting a dysfunctional medical curriculum that teaches/indoctrinates the use of drugs to suppress symptoms; not to promote healing. They will suppress any forms of treatment that are non-pharmaceutically-related. In addition, decades past, they were granted immunity from prosecution by the government. Today, the evil Tech Giants, censor anything that discusses natural medicine and other forms of treatment. This robs people of the freedom to chose medical treatments and strips providers of their right to choose and administer treatments that are safe, effective, and promote the body’s innate healing processes .
    In addition, medical education, all education for that matter, is not education as only one paradigm is promoted in classrooms; all contrary models/hypotheses/arguments are labeled being “controversial”. In a true educational system, multiple ideas would be presented, and students would be encouraged to align their thoughts with ideas that made sense to them, and/or contribute fresh perspectives. Students are bilked for enormous sums of money as a medical paper degree easily costs $100,000s of dollars not to mention annual cost-of-living expenses. The USA government blames the schools for runaway costs, yet that same government continues funding those skyrocketing costs. Upon completion of studies, students discover that if they consolidate their school loans, the interest rate nearly doubles from the government’s original agreements. Thus the government promotes student longterm indebtedness.

    Everything the USA has been built upon is false and now our evil deeds are coming back upon us. Capitalism doesn’t work and the government doesn’t respond to the will of the people. Americans have been lazy the past decades, and now they’re paying for it. China, USA, North Korea are all evil entities and the sooner their onslaught of death and destruction is halted, the better for our world. COVID-19 is accelerating the collapse of the USA and the world will be a better place, provided that our world’s citizenry construct a new world model where all people are treated fairly and are afforded the freedoms to think, speak, and act without evil constrictions.

    However, and a final caveat: are people living in the world today truly people of moral discernment, wherein they can act for the greater prosperity of all people? Or, as history as demonstrated, are they greedy and small-minded at heart? Time will reveal all.

    Keep up the great work you are doing; we’re glad we became Proton members. Continue to speak out for freedom and reveal the evils that plague and destroy our world. As Proton family members, we can work to make a difference.

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  • It’s tough to see Apple fans blindly giving Apple infinite credit and green light to do whatever they want just because “they built the platform”. The truth is that Apple is unimaginably powerful and influential, beyond most average Joe’s understanding – me included. They have actual hundreds of billions of dollars, can change laws by lobbying, and they can end the lives of small companies at whim. Unless you work for Apple or a big shareholder, they are not going to share their wealth and power with any of you, any of us. Blindly cheering for one of the richest companies in existence with no good reason seems so bizarre to me, there’s anything for us to gain from doing that. Apple’s 30% tax eventually comes back down to customers. When companies – small and big – lose 30% of their revenues because they had to pay Apple, they have no choice but to make their next product higher priced to be able to survive.

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  • Those policies are being used for a very long time and has provided enormous benefits to those companies. The question here is why the policy makers kept the silence and inertia to do something. This shows a flaw in our political system that is unable to react to those kind of threats to the free global market. In my opinion they all know about it but some mysterious forces are acting to keep the irrelevance and the silence of the system and the Laws.
    The only solution is to have the society requesting actions and changes, but the timing has to be enhanced before those Giants destroys and control all of us.

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  • Extremely well written article and argumentation that I support 100%.

    I am only one lowly user, but one who is married to a Chinese wife and hear every day through her Chinese connections and family how much censorship is occurring in Mainland China, now extending to Hong Kong and with threat to freedom of speech springing up all over the world.

    I will support you, I am taking my own actions to support freedom and removal of censorship, particularly where it is masked under the cloak of ‘political correctness” and urge us all to take the small actions that each of us needs to take to deal with these threats to our basic rights and freedoms.

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  • Interesting read, thank you.

    Is there any way to create a completely anonymous social net? Probably not, because you can identify people by their social relations to others or their comments/pictures?

    Even if it were not entirely anonymous it would potentially be a better alternative to our current social networks,

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  • Thank you for this Very Important information
    My Great Grandfather fought for Freedom
    LinuxPusher
    The Freedom to Choose

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  • Thank you, for speaking up on this injustice. As time passes I’m so grateful I signed up with ProtonMail & ProtonVPN. Keep up the good work.

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  • Amazing read. I not only stand behind you in this fight and on this topic, I stand BESIDE YOU. Let me know if there is anything I can do locally to help the cause.

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  • I have been a protonmail user from the very start and am very encouraged to see Andy taking a stand and articulate so clearly what some of the issues are. Doing this from the perspective of a company that has suffered the consequences first hand of these practices really creates a clear picture. It will take the courage of many leaders like Andy to create the rebellious alternatives of the future – like perhaps Apple once was. It’s unfortunate that Tim Cook has taken Apple down this path as it is not a self evident one, and there are options and alternatives. Keep it up Andy! You will inspire change.

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  • Thank you for this article, it’s very nice to see people speaking up and doing something substantial to defend freedom around the world. We will all have to stand together now, not as nations, but as people against the global elitists and their monopolies on global markets and suppression of free speech. God bless you!

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  • It is clear to me that Apple, who depends on Chinees factories to produce 100% of its goods, is bowing to the demands of the Chinees authorities; do what we say or we cut off production. Shame on Apple!

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  • I disagree with your victim’s construct. Nobody is forcing you to develop for Apple. Apple is practically a niche player in the phone space with barely 25% market share and much less in some countries. You want to ride on their coattails and quality of products but then complain that they are taking a cut?

    If it’s so godawful, go develop your own phone. Come out with regular security and feature patches. Don’t like the Apple policies, vote with your feet, and develop for something else or make your own phone.

    Apple doesn’t public pornography apps. Nobody seems to be crying about that. Spotify only went into this because Apple keeps turning out superior products that people want and that 25% market share accounts for something like 94% of the post-purchase spending on apps, etc.

    You didn’t develop the app store, they did. You don’t like their rules, go somewhere else. You are hardly held “hostage”, that’s a victim construct you have created for yourself. What is the next outrage? DMV fees? Property taxes? Walmart and Amazon?

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  • Wonderful! I stand with Protonmail; I stand with the people of Hong Kong.

    Thank you for coming forward with vital information during this critical time. I am glad that I chose to use Protonmail (without knowing that we were of the same mind).

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  • Dear Proton makers,

    Obey Apple rules, even the 30%-rule. Do not confront, but surf the wave. First, let your wonderful software arrive to uninformed people in western countries. They are unaware of what is going on and Proton awakes them. Keep building a strong community, even in western countries only. Otherwise, Proton will be removed from the mainstream of apps…

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  • Any time I hear someone showing off his Iphone, I explain why by his acts he supports the wrong side of the economy.

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  • I would like your lawyers to contact me. I would would like to take on Wal-Crap,, VUDU to be exact, I bought digital movies on their app, and I am not able to transfer them to a more central place. Digital should be usable on every platform once purchased. Same for hard copies, I should not have to pay a fee on top of a movie I already own just to upload it to VUDU.

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  • I have been an avide apple user since my first computer, through the dark days when everyone kept saying apple was crap, and going to fail. I bought one of the first colored iMacs back in the 90s, and have had literally almost every device they have produced. As odd as Steve Jobs might have been, I believe apple was in much, much better hands when he was alive, and have never ‘taken’ to Tim Cook.

    I have also been a user of protonmail almost since beginning, and later the proton vpn. I have had some trouble w/the vpn, and now know what is probably the cause. When trouble starts, I turn it off for a while. Same w/my desktop version.

    As much as I would like to see a ‘free’ internet, the big techs need to be regulated for a number of reasons, and sincerely hope that will happen soon with an EO, if not some other way.

    Thanks to your guys at proton for great products, and for hanging in there fighting the tech giants.

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