Air quality measurer AirVisual withdraws app in Vietnam following public outcry

AirVisual said it has been unfairly attacked in Vietnam following data showing Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City among worst polluted cities in the world.

Air quality app AirVisual has been pulled off from both the App Store and Google Play Store in Vietnam after the company said it has been under a “coordinated campaign” to discredit its data, which had consistently put Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam’s two biggest urban centers among the world most polluted in recent weeks.

In a public statement, AirVisual said it received abusive and threatening messages posted on Facebook and on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store and therefore both the apps and Facebook are no longer available in Vietnam.

Vietnamese capital Hanoi has at times topped the list of AirVisual’s “major city ranking”, a live pollution ranking of around 90 major global cities. This has caused public outcry over air quality as people have been rushing to buy protection masks. The government has been trying to assure the public to stay calm.

Earlier this week, AirVisual was among the most downloaded apps in Vietnam. However, some netizens also expressed concerns that the data could harm the country’s tourism and questioned the accuracy of AirVisual’s data.

Founded in 2015, AirVisual is part of IQAir, which is a Switzerland and US-based company that sells air purifiers and other technology solutions to protect people from airborne pollutants. In this blog post, AirVisual explains it aggregates data from both governmental monitoring stations and low-cost sensors. According to its CrunchBase profile, AirVisual is a social enterprise.

AirVisual also said it is working with Apple, Google and Facebook to confirm the “attack” and to make the AirVisual apps available again in Vietnam. Users in the country can still access data quality through the company’s website.

Update: By late October 8, AirVisual app has returned to Apple App Store and Google Play Store in Vietnam.