Angry Birds. Whatsapp. Beluga. I am sure all these applications (apps) are not unfamiliar to Apple users. It is no denying that our society loves apps and how apps provide us with so much entertainment and convenience. For instance, the all-cute-and-entertaining smartphone app, Angry Birds from Ruvio, has hit 250 million downloads.
However, not all apps are friendly and not all apps stay in the App Store without controversy. Apple has removed several controversial apps from their app store which caused a huge uproar in the social community, some even alerting the government authorities.
This led me thinking – how did Apple allow these apps to be on the App Store in the first place?
You may have heard of ‘Baby Shaker’ that shook the social community just the previous year. No doubt, this app has been taken down after being criticized for its morbid content of stimulating a ‘Shaken Baby Syndrome’ and for encouraging such offensive acts through an app. Apple had issued a statement apologizing for its mistake in allowing such an app to be on the App Store.
In another incident of App Store controversy, government authorities have stepped in as well. 4 United States Senators have written to Apple asking that sobriety or DUI checkpoints apps such as Buzzed, DUI Dodger be removed from the App Store. Indeed, Apple has caved in to political pressures and removed such apps and updated their guidelines to reject apps that include DUI checkpoints unreleased by regulation enforcement agencies.
Another example of controversy would be an ‘Anti-gay’ or ‘Gay-conversion’ app that Exodus International has released, seeking to help ‘reorient sex-orientation’. A removal petition that had over 90,000 signatures had gotten Apple to pull this app from its App Store.
While people has expressed their unhappiness with Apple approving such an app through the petition, there are individuals as well who don’t see why such apps cannot have the freedom to be in the App Store. Allyson Kazmucha from TiPb (who is openly gay) states that he does not think Apple should be forced to remove this app for he believes in the freedom of actions. He believes that since everyone has a choice whether they would want to download that app, why should it bother others why Apple approves such an app, especially when Apple did not pre-install that app when we first bought our devices.
Jesus Diaz also expresses strong opinions against Apple’s censorship of apps. He argues that no firm regulations have been available for people and that Apple is almost unreasonable to just force developers to change their editorial content just because they receive complaints. In fact, he questions whether Apple, being one of the quasi-monopolies in this apps race, is abusing its power to do so.
In my opinion, it is indeed a mistake on Apple to overlook offensive content while approving apps such as Baby Shaker. With the growing number of complaints from consumers, Apple has to do what it takes to satisfy its consumers and hence, establishing more extreme app censorship to objectionable content. However, by doing so, Apple may also lose advantage to Google Androids for example which has more unrestricted and less-extreme app censorship. Developers may choose to release apps on Androids and Apple due to its restrictive censorship. As mentioned, Apple needs to set its regulations and establish firm guidelines in order not to appear arbitrary and illogical in suddenly requesting developers to edit their content etc. In the meanwhile, developers’ app innovations may be restricted by Apple’s rules and regulations as well.
It is with no doubt that apps remain a huge part of our lives and controversial apps are bound to surface if Apple overlooks its content. So, do you think censorship is important for apps or should App Store provide freedom for apps innovation?