A growing number of Apple shareholders voiced concern over its removal of VPN apps in 2017, a move some said could now force the vendor to sit up and listen to their comments, Reuters reported.

At the company’s AGM on Wednesday (26 February), shareholders voted on a proposal requesting Apple report on its approach to freedom of expression. The majority continued to resist the plan, which would require the vendor to respond to their concerns, but Reuters noted the number in favour of the plan was higher than before.

Concerns focus on Apple’s decision to take down VPN apps from its App Store in China, Reuters reported.

Experts claimed the vote could be seen as a warning for Apple and the company will most likely be pushed to address the rising concerns.

Reuters added there was increased support among shareholders for proposals criticising Apple’s censorship in China compared with previous years. It pointed to a proposal from 2018, suggesting the creation of a human rights panel which would supervise censorship and workplace conditions in China, which was soundly rejected by 95 per cent of voters.

Apple had reportedly argued it already provided substantial information regarding government requests to remove apps from its App Store.

Earlier this month senior director of global privacy at Apple Jane Horvath noted in a letter to advocacy group Access Now the company will consider providing additional information on its commitment to freedom of expression.