Xiaomi engages expert to assess Lithuania's allegations on smartphone censorship

The company 'is admitting phones are capable of content filtering' says Lithuania's Defence Ministry.
The company 'is admitting phones are capable of content filtering' says Lithuania's Defence Ministry. Photo credit: Getty Images

China's Xiaomi has said it is engaging a third-party expert to assess allegations by Lithuania that its smartphones carry built-in censorship capabilities.

Lithuania's Defence Ministry last week urged consumers to throw away Chinese phones after a report by its National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) alleging that Xiaomi phones have built-in censorship capabilities.

Deputy Defence Minister Margiris Abukevicius said the ministry shared its report with cyber security officials from other European Union nations and the United States.

"Our recommendation is to not buy new Chinese phones, and to get rid of those already purchased as fast as reasonably possible," Abukevicius said.

According to the report, the terms potentially subject to censorship by the Xiaomi phone, the M10T that is also on sale in Aotearoa, include "Free Tibet", "Long live Taiwan independence" and "democracy movement".

The dispute has blown up against a backdrop of souring relations with China.

In August it demanded Lithuania withdraw its ambassador in Beijing and said it would recall its envoy to Vilnius after Taiwan said that its mission there would be called the Taiwanese Representative Office.

"While we dispute the characterisation of certain findings, we are engaging an independent third-party expert to assess the points raised in the report," a Xiaomi spokesperson told Reuters.

Xiaomi emerged as the top smartphone vendor in Europe for the first time in the second quarter of 2021, shipping a record 12.7 million units there, research firm Strategy Analytics said.

Along with other Chinese rivals on the Android operating system, Xiaomi has enjoyed a surge in market share following the enforcement of US sanctions against Huawei, which crippled its once-dominant smartphone division.

Last week a company spokesperson told Newshub "Xiaomi has never and will never restrict or block any personal behaviours of our smartphone users, such as searching, calling, web browsing or the use of third-party communication software."

"Xiaomi fully respects and protects the legal rights of all users."


Xiaomi did not specify in its statement on Monday which third-party organisation it was engaging for the assessment, although a spokesperson told Reuters it was based in Europe.

The company said it uses advertising software to shield users from content such as pornography and references that offend local users, which it said was standard in the industry.

Abukevicius said Xiaomi, by saying it operates a blacklist to filter illegal content, "is admitting the phones are capable of content filtering".

"Our investigation found that the blacklist for the filters contained only politically motivated terms. If a new list turns up, that would not negate our findings, it would just show that the company is trying to repair its reputation", the Deputy Defence Minister told Reuters.