Saturday, 17 April 2010

App Store censorship: where to draw the line?

    Apple sells a plethora of music and movies via the iTunes Store, replete with sexual or violent content and foul language, while CEO Steve jobs has no problem pointing fingers at Android:
"There’s a porn store for Android… you can download it, your kids can download it. That’s a place we don’t want to go, so we’re not going to"
    Of course sex, violence and abusive language is "ok" to be presented in a more stimulating fashion such as video or audio, but a book that could have such a content is absolutely outrageous!
"We’ve reviewed Eucalyptus — classic books, to go. and determined that we cannot post this version of your iPhone application to the App Store because it contains inappropriate sexual content and is in violation of Section 3.3.12 from the iPhone SDK Agreement which states:
                   “Applications must not contain any obscene, pornographic, offensive or defamatory content or materials of any kind (text, graphics, images, photographs, etc.), or other content or materials that in Apple’s reasonable judgement may be found objectionable by iPhone or iPod touch users.”
     Apparently, not even publishing a cartoon with political jokes is acceptable. Why should it make any difference if the content comes in the form of a song, a movie, or an iPhone app?
Well it seems to be making a lot of difference in the communist iTunes Store since there already are websites crawling with silly games and even apps that will allow you to access files and folders or send files via bluetooth, all forbidden by Apple.
    But they will gladly make an exception for you if you are famous, since the thing Apple thrives on most, is advertising. In other words, Apple has no problem in breaking the rules they enforce upon anyone else if it suits them.
If you want to get past Apple's unpredictable App Store censors, it's simple: Just go win a Pulitzer Prize, and/or inspire an online revolution.
    That seems to be the message being sent by Cupertino this week in a very public iPhone app rejection fiasco. Word broke on Thursday that Apple had rejected a cartoon app created by Mark Fiore, a cartoonist who recently made history by becoming the first online-only journalist to win a Pulitzer. Fiore received the award for animations he'd published at the Web site of the San Francisco Chronicle.
    Fiore's iPhone app, however, was reportedly shot down by Apple because it "ridicule[d] public figures" -- you know, as most satirical political cartoons tend to do. But the story didn't end there: The general silliness of a ban on political satire, coupled with Fiore's high-profile honor for that same genre of work, led to a public outcry over Apple's actions and that public outcry has seemingly now led to Apple rethinking its ban.

Apple's Pulitzer Rejection Reversal

   Fiore, according to an interview published in The Wall Street Journal on Friday, received a call from Apple shortly after his story started receiving widespread attention online. The Apple representative, Fiore says, suggested he resubmit his app.
"I feel kind of guilty," Fiore tells The Journal. "I'm getting preferential treatment because I got the Pulitzer."
    To be fair to Fiore, it's probably more directly the public attention than the Pulitzer itself that caught Apple's eye. But the honor, no doubt, illustrated the validity of satirical work in the eyes of the real world -- the eyes, that is, outside of Apple's carefully guarded walls.