Apple Releases Its Rules for App Store Censoring
Following month after month of what seemed to be arbitrary decisions based on secret rules, Apple released a set of “App Store Review Guidelines” yesterday. The rules govern all content, games and tools that can be used on the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch, and it is the first time they have been made public by Apple.
The long approval process and what appear to be arbitrary rejections have incensed developers and publishers since the inception of the App Store. Ryan Tate over at Gawker said the publication of these guidelines comes “amid a broader retreat for Apple, which today also backed off rules that had banned apps translated from Flash and that had stifled Google's mobile advertising network.”
Apple may have backed off a bit from its secrecy, but Tate was clear to say that the only change was the transparency of the rules. Apple will still continue to censor App Store content, and Tate isn’t happy about it:
Apple's pullback isn't cowering, though. If anything, the new guidelines illustrate how fervently the company continues to defy critics (like us) who say the app store would work better — as a business, as a creative showcase and as an increasingly popular commons for all manner of human expression — with more diversity and less corporate censorship of fashion spreads, gay culture, literary illustrations, critical caricature, political satire, and on and on.
Apple has made no secret of its vetting and censoring of apps for its store, and it will continue to do so in the future. The App Store will continue to represent a less gay, less diverse, and less political version of life. They only difference is that the rules for creating that world are now public.
Among those guidelines is a particularly humorous one that tells developers not to snitch on Apple if their work is rejected:
If your app is rejected, we have a Review Board that you can appeal to. If you run to the press and trash us, it never helps.
Apple’s rules also include those that dictate what kind of content can be produced, and it doesn’t want applications it deems unfit for children:
We have lots of kids downloading lots of apps, and parental controls don’t work unless the parents set them up (many don’t). So know that we’re keeping an eye out for the kids.
Even more troubling are the rules governing religious content. Apple allows apps that contain “accurate and not misleading” quotations and commentary that is “educational and informative.” That’s all well and good, until you read Apple’s statement about how it will rule with an iron fist, continuing to act arbitrarily in rejecting apps for its store:
We will reject Apps for any content or behavior we believe is over the line. What line, you ask? Well, as a Supreme Court Justice once said, ‘Ill know it when I see it.’ And we think that you will also know it when you cross it.
Apple may be well within its rights to censor the content of the store. After all, it created and maintains the platform. The question at hand is not one of legality; rather, it is about potential. The App Store could be so much more; it could be the “commons for all manner of human expression” of which Tate spoke. Is this possible? Sure, but I wouldn’t get my hopes up for Apple to change its mind.
Andrew Bluebond is a staff writer for Campus Progress. He attends Claremont McKenna College.