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Apple Bobbles - and Drops - the Ball
November 9, 2009 9:37 AM   Subscribe

Apple has rejected an iPhone app for making contact with your Congressperson. Why? Because it identifies each US Representative/Senator with a 'bobblehead' caricature by MAD magazine artist Tom Richmond (who, having done 540 not-terribly-disrespectful caricatures, is justifiably pissed). “Obscene, pornographic, or defamatory”?!? Well, maybe the Nancy Pelosi is gratuitously goofy...
posted by oneswellfoop (152 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
If there is one potentially valid reason for Apple to reject the app, it would be that Glenn Beck liked it and has booked its mastermind Ray Griggs to appear on his show (where now, Beck will spin it as Apple "protecting Congress from its constituents" and will probably start an Apple Boycott by his Beckheads, who are the opposite of Apple's marketing demographic... in fact, "Beck hates us" could be a valuable selling point...)
posted by oneswellfoop at 9:39 AM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Just yesterday I was complaning about how Apple sometimes treats it’s customers as if they were stupid.

Um?
posted by rokusan at 9:41 AM on November 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


It is kind of odd to depict them that way instead of just using stock photos--especially since you would have to draw new caricatures every two years for new members. Also, his style is kind of unpleasant to look at in any case.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:43 AM on November 9, 2009 [4 favorites]


I like the caricatures, but based on the screenshots on Richmond's blog, the piece could also work as a PowerPoint slide for a talk on "When Good Illustrators Become Bad Designers."
posted by rokusan at 9:43 AM on November 9, 2009


If only Don Martin were still with us. Then we'd not only have Congressional caricatures for the app, but they'd make noises like KERSHLUNKERSHLUNK or FWZZZZBRAAAPTT!! every time you shook the phone.
posted by Spatch at 9:44 AM on November 9, 2009 [28 favorites]


That's not a particularly egregious rejection.

This is a particularly egregious rejection.
posted by ardgedee at 9:47 AM on November 9, 2009


I was kind of with him just on the principle of not liking the idea of Apple nannying my device's content. But then he starts claiming that this was all for the children, and he lost me.

The really sad part is that here is an app that might get people interested in who represents them in Washington, especially kids and young adults, and connects people to their senators and representatives via fun and PARTISAN FREE way.
posted by edbles at 9:48 AM on November 9, 2009


Yes, it's an egregious rejection. I've been a lifelong Mac fanatic, but Apple's insistence on controlling their platform in this way, for non-security reasons, drove me into the arms of Android.
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:52 AM on November 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


This was an awesome undertaking, beautifully executed, and the Apple lawyers who rejected it are a craven band of blinkered ninnies.

I guess I'll have to settle for the new farting gorilla app. (I've heard they used actual gorilla farts!)
posted by Atom Eyes at 9:54 AM on November 9, 2009


Makes sense -- this is necessary to avoid tarnishing the pathbreaking apps that brought us electronic girlfriends, simulated farts, and unlimited blond jokes.
posted by brain_drain at 9:55 AM on November 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


Actually, Rush Limbaugh is a big fan of Macs and the iPhone.

Clever, Apple. You divide the right wing even more, so that the Rushies and Beckheads fight, and when they're not looking, you legalize gay marriage.

(My opinion: Apple is trying way too hard to cover themselves. They were probably just afraid some politician or his rabid fans would take offense at the caricatures and create a major controversy. Denying an app is less controversial, since that means less people see it in the first place.)
posted by mccarty.tim at 9:56 AM on November 9, 2009


Apple nannying of apps is exactly what you pay for, though. It's how prospective users will know that your Congress app isn't some malware virus thingie, and it's what will get it downloaded by millions, rather than just by the sixty-seven Linux-loving Android geeks out there.

Sure, it's annoying sometimes, but the payoff is that you can download and install anything from the store onto your phone -- anything -- without any fear of spyware, viruses and so on. That's worth something, and it's the best reason for all devices to have "marketplaces" rather than the wide-open PC world we all know and, um, love.

I think that the day we start to need AShampoo Norton AVG for iPhone Gold, it's all over.

* I love you all, but you know it's true. Don't flame me.
posted by rokusan at 9:57 AM on November 9, 2009 [7 favorites]


Also, his style is kind of unpleasant to look at in any case.

It's MAD magazine-style... where pleasantness is a negative. And no more unpleasant than Congress deserves, right?

"When Good Illustrators Become Bad Designers."

...which is not a good reason for Apple to play censor. Besides, I think the design was more the work of "movie director/entrepreneur Ray Griggs.

But then he starts claiming that this was all for the children, and he lost me.

Again, I must remind... he's an artist for MAD magazine... where everything is for the children, or at least the childish. And adding whimsy (well-executed or not) to a Congressional Directory does move the target demographic in the 'youth' direction.

All in all, it's still Reason #72 why I'm glad I don't own an iPhone.
posted by oneswellfoop at 9:59 AM on November 9, 2009


Also, that Pelosi looks way more like Suze Orman than the Speaker of the House. Not really offensive, though.
posted by mccarty.tim at 9:59 AM on November 9, 2009


This was an awesome undertaking, beautifully executed, and the Apple lawyers who rejected it...

Given the volume of new app submissions, I'll wager it's more like an intern clicking a big red A button that rejects the app and/or gives them a banana.

And that's assuming a human being is involved at all in some of these. Many, like the "has iPhone in the title" example, could be rejected by robots.
posted by rokusan at 9:59 AM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


All in all, it's still Reason #72 why I'm glad I don't own an iPhone.

So you... can't not get an app with cartoon congressmen?
posted by rokusan at 10:01 AM on November 9, 2009 [5 favorites]


Apple nannying of apps is exactly what you pay for, though.

It's why Apple in 2009 is exactly like 1984. Terrorist-free, except for the guy in the Guy Fawkes mask (oops, wrong book)...
posted by oneswellfoop at 10:02 AM on November 9, 2009


rokusan will be delighted to know that when you jailbreak an iPhone, you now make yourself vulnerable to a worm that rickrolls you.
posted by oneswellfoop at 10:08 AM on November 9, 2009


rokusan: Sure, it's annoying sometimes, but the payoff is that you can download and install anything from the store onto your phone -- anything -- without any fear of spyware, viruses and so on. That's worth something, and it's the best reason for all devices to have "marketplaces" rather than the wide-open PC world we all know and, um, love.
Wait- so it's your contention that aesthetic taste is now a virus or spyware? That's certainly an interesting position...posted by hincandenza at 10:09 AM on November 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


Apple rejects apps constantly. Sometimes they're for stupid reasons (particularly stupid one mentioned earlier).

I don't like the iTunes store process and there are many details wrong about it. Among other things, if Apple is keeping up with its review backlog the average time a reviewer can afford to spend testing any given app is only a few minutes. In that time they have to review its submission documentation, development spec, test it to make sure it works, is secure and usable, lacks back doors, does what it claims to do, and meets the terms of service agreement, which has many dozen bullet points. A single person has the power of life and death over what might be somebody else's livelihood, and all the reviewer has to do is drop the ball for eight minutes, and somebody's screwed over.

Reviewers with political or personal axes to grind -- or are simply overreacting due to exhaustion or unrelated issues -- are going to be quick on the trigger with something that pushes buttons.

The thing is - Not many of the even egregious-seeming rejections end up staying rejected. Rejected apps can be negotiated and resubmitted for approval. Sometimes the changes needed for eventual approval are themselves pretty stupid, but Apple has improved at least to the extent of making the submission process less of a black box affair. And since Apple officially vets all third-party apps and major app updates, they become the gatekeeper of the iPhone, and are responsible for any screwups or major offense caused by an app they let through, so they're beholden to themselves to be overcautious, purely out of legal risk.

I suspect Apple feels like it's made a deal with the devil with this system, because it's got to be outrageously expensive to sustain. Clearly they're making money hand over fist, but since a free app can take as long to review as a thirty dollar app, they're cutting into profits where they might not have had to.
posted by ardgedee at 10:11 AM on November 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


But the iphone app that has listings of where sex offenders still carries icons of the devil. Whew.
posted by stormpooper at 10:13 AM on November 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


No, hincandenza, I don't think these cartoons should have been rejected. I was explaining that the nannying can be a good thing, in general.

I suspect that my hypothetical intern monkey made a bad call on this one, that will probably be reversed once their manager or whatever sees it. I expect that much like any approval process, many apps are rejected the first time through, only to be approved later, after more details are submitted, or on appeal.

On preview, most of what ardgedee said. It's a process. This one will probably be approved later, but it won't be because of the Big Internet Whining. But it'll take someone other than a Tier 1 approver person to do it.
posted by rokusan at 10:17 AM on November 9, 2009


I predict this app does not remain rejected. It's exactly the type of app that Apple wants (or should want) to use to promote the iPhone. Buying an iPhone can help make you a good citizen!
posted by brain_drain at 10:17 AM on November 9, 2009


OFS: My old iPhone classic is jailbroken (jailbreaked?), while my newer 3G isn't. I can see advantages each way. No rickrolling virus yet.
posted by rokusan at 10:19 AM on November 9, 2009


the Apple lawyers who rejected it

Just watching the variety, and complete inconsistency, of application rejections so far makes it clear that the approval process is handled by individuals who are terribly rushed, and are working to a set of vague and subjective guidelines.

It's an impossible job. Apple is basically asking a bunch of employees to make judgement calls all day long, and every time one of them makes a bad call it will get questioned publicly like this and generate another wave of bad press.

Not that I'm defending Apple -- I think they were crazy to put themselves in this position in the first place* -- but this picture of a team of lawyers cackling maniacally while they scrutinize every submitted application is just off base.

* Patrolling submitted apps to make sure they're not malicious, virus-laden, or overly crash-prone, okay. But trying to prejudge the suitability of the content of each application is just a no-win situation.
posted by ook at 10:19 AM on November 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


Apple should just dress up the Mac guy in a Nazi SS uniform and get it over with.

Oh, please grow up.
posted by ook at 10:23 AM on November 9, 2009 [10 favorites]


This is great publicity for when it eventually gets approved.
posted by R. Mutt at 10:28 AM on November 9, 2009


It's like rain on your wedding day.
posted by exogenous at 10:36 AM on November 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


I already know how to get in contact with my congressperson. If you have an iPhone or iPod but can't track down your congressperson, perhaps it's time to familiarize yourself with a little something called Google.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:37 AM on November 9, 2009 [4 favorites]


Really makes me look forward to my Android or Moto - and here's hoping that there's a Congress app being worked up for one of those.
posted by medea42 at 10:40 AM on November 9, 2009


Apple should just dress up the Mac guy in a Nazi SS uniform and get it over with.

Apple is a private business, and is therefore free to decide its own rules for appropriate vs. inappropriate content. The Constitution gives Apple that right.

You are perfectly free to write an app that lets you depict each Congressional Representative with a different fart sound if you so choose-- you just have to sell it to someone other than Apple. That's all that means. It is not censorship, and calling it censorship detracts from actual censorship complaints.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:49 AM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Hey, there's already an app for this.
posted by brain_drain at 10:53 AM on November 9, 2009


Sure, it's annoying sometimes, but the payoff is that you can download and install anything from the store onto your phone -- anything -- without any fear of spyware, viruses and so on. That's worth something, and it's the best reason for all devices to have "marketplaces" rather than the wide-open PC world we all know and, um, love.

Cause Apple would never let through an app that collects unnecessary info on you, right?
posted by kmz at 11:00 AM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Apple seem to have decided, for whatever reason, that their business is to take offense by proxy on behalf of anyone who might possibly be offended. As such, they've gone from being the liberating force in the 1984 Mac ads to being the Wal-Mart of the digital age.
posted by acb at 11:00 AM on November 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


Pelosi should be flattered...
posted by VicNebulous at 11:01 AM on November 9, 2009


Oooh, I see Nyarlathotep has already downloaded the little-known "Godwining the Thread" app! Kudos!
posted by grapefruitmoon at 11:02 AM on November 9, 2009


Google monitors apps submitted to Android Market - but only for security/AUP/copyright issues. Even then, you are permitted to install non-Market apps if you enable that feauture... which does not require jail-breaking and warns the user of risk.

It's disingenuous to say Apple needs this level of control over their device. My Mac doesn't have much of a malware problem, despite being way more open than the iPhone. It's creepy and orwellian.
posted by Slap*Happy at 11:03 AM on November 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


You are perfectly free to write an app that lets you depict each Congressional Representative with a different fart sound if you so choose-- you just have to sell it to someone other than Apple. That's all that means. It is not censorship, and calling it censorship detracts from actual censorship complaints.

Though, given the cost of developing a new platform, let alone one that works well (and there are plenty of shoddy mobile phone OSes which crawl painfully and have limited and buggy application support, or only their own custom APIs), not to mention the network effects (a platform is only as good as the developers who develop for it, and even if you choose to boycott Apple because of their censorship policies, a lot of people won't care, and it's going to look very lonely out there in the non-iPhone world), the "Apple are a private company, they can restrict what they like and if you don't like it, you're free to go somewhere else" argument doesn't quite cut it. Sure, you can go somewhere else, but the fact that everyone else is buying or making iPhone apps sucks much of the oxygen out of the other platforms.
posted by acb at 11:04 AM on November 9, 2009


Bizarre. That is the most flattering portrayal of Kucinich that I've ever seen, including every single photograph of him.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:06 AM on November 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


R. Mutt got it right.

It was a dumb move by Apple, and as in the case of other obvious mistakes, e.g., the book reader that allowed you to download the Kama Sutra, it will be reversed.

When I worked at Apple, the common agreement about the legal department was that if they would be thrilled if nothing new was ever introduced because then they'ed never get sued.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 11:11 AM on November 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


All in all, it's still Reason #72 why I'm glad I don't own an iPhone.

There are at least 70 reasons each month that I'm glad I don't own an iPhone.
posted by oaf at 11:12 AM on November 9, 2009


Though, given the cost of developing a new platform, let alone one that works well (and there are plenty of shoddy mobile phone OSes which crawl painfully and have limited and buggy application support, or only their own custom APIs), not to mention the network effects (a platform is only as good as the developers who develop for it, and even if you choose to boycott Apple because of their censorship policies, a lot of people won't care, and it's going to look very lonely out there in the non-iPhone world), the "Apple are a private company, they can restrict what they like and if you don't like it, you're free to go somewhere else" argument doesn't quite cut it. Sure, you can go somewhere else, but the fact that everyone else is buying or making iPhone apps sucks much of the oxygen out of the other platforms.

That's still not under the purview of the First Amendment, however. The problem is that this isn't censorship, the problem is that this a trade monopoly for this particular one item.

But, I still take a dim view of people complaining that they cannot express themselves in a particular way on their iphones when they also have:

The Palm Pre
Print
radio
Youtube
Blogs
Metafilter
talking to people

....available to them.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:13 AM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Um?

"Um?" presumably meaning "of course Apple treats their customers as though they're intelligent, one must be an idiot to think otherwise"?

'Cuz, you know, there are people who find Apple's general marketing approach to be kind of patronizing.
posted by lodurr at 11:21 AM on November 9, 2009


This is just a CYA rejection, and, to be honest, I don't blame them. All you need is one Congress person to decide that their caricature is unflattering for some scandalous reason (for example, the caricature played on a racial stereotype etc.) and this could be a huge shitstorm for Apple (Apple approves racist caricature of Representative XYZ). Even if there isn't an actionable claim, the bad press could be a disaster. Because Apple vets these programs before they go live, they have no plausible denial about content. Personally, I'd reject it, too.

This is not "Apple gestapo fnur fnur" bullshit.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 11:21 AM on November 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


There are at least 70 reasons each month that I'm glad I don't own an iPhone

Yup. The wife & I used some of those rea$on$ last night to go get dinner and then see Neko Case.
posted by lodurr at 11:29 AM on November 9, 2009


Admiral Haddock, if Apple had, by policy, no regime for monitoring content (beyond copyright violation and age-appropriate content), they would essentially have no problem. The standard response would be "we do not censor."

They only have a problem because they've decided to cover their ass. They have created the problem for themselves.
posted by lodurr at 11:32 AM on November 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


rokusan: Sure, it's annoying sometimes, but the payoff is that you can download and install anything from the store onto your phone -- anything -- without any fear of spyware

That probably has more to do with the fact that iPhone apps don't run in privileged mode, which is also true of most windows programs these days, but obviously not all of them. As long as you remember to read the vista security dialogs, and keep your system patched, you should be OK. And keep in mind there have been plenty of times that iPhones have had security vulnerabilities. There used to be a website that would let you jailbreak your iPhone just by visiting a website, which in theory could have allowed any website to install whatever low-level code they wanted.

It's totally unnecessary to have an "app store" to avoid viruses and spy ware. In fact, Mac users constantly brag about not having to worry about it, because their apps are not written to require superuser access.

---

Also, while Android has a market, you can also load apps over USB using the developer toolset. I suppose some phones might disable that, but it works fine on my G1.
posted by delmoi at 11:42 AM on November 9, 2009


Usual gang of idiots
posted by Smedleyman at 11:49 AM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


even if you choose to boycott Apple because of their censorship policies

You don't know what censorship is.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:50 AM on November 9, 2009


Sure, it's annoying sometimes, but the payoff is that you can download and install anything from the store onto your phone -- anything -- without any fear of spyware, viruses and so on. That's worth something, and it's the best reason for all devices to have "marketplaces" rather than the wide-open PC world we all know and, um, love.

Yes, because Apple keeps out evil applications, like those who collect user phone numbers and then call all their contacts and try to sell them things.

Don't trust Apple. Be wary of all applications, because their walled garden has weak walls and capricious guards.
posted by blue_beetle at 11:59 AM on November 9, 2009 [5 favorites]


You don't know what censorship is.

Some of us are satisfied with dictionary definitions. Which in this case applies to a surprisingly wide range of activities.
posted by lodurr at 12:05 PM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Just make the app for the Android. 1.6 version (that way the dev g1 can run it) For extra memory saving, can you have it dump the graphics that arn't your reps?

K thanks.
posted by rough ashlar at 12:19 PM on November 9, 2009


Actually, Rush Limbaugh is a big fan of Macs and the iPhone.

And Rush used to think the REAL place to be was Compuserve. The Internet had 'internet nimrods' and wasn't worth his time.
posted by rough ashlar at 12:21 PM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Some of us are satisfied with dictionary definitions.

There is nothing stopping you from contacting your elected officials through, say, going to your elected official's website and finding contact information there. Richmond can still publish his caricatures on any one of many cellphone platforms, or even release a version for jailbroken iPhones, if he so chooses. There is no censorship going on, and to use this shrill language does a disservice to people who live in totalitarian regimes and suffer real loss of freedoms.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:31 PM on November 9, 2009


I was given a first-gen PowerPC Mac Mini recently, and the biggest thing I was struck by it was the relative lack of "freeware." On the PC, you can expect to find a no-cost, or even open source, utility for anything, even on Windows. On the Mac? Most of that stuff is shareware. Shareware! In the 21st century!*

The iPhone world seems to be about the same, plus you have an editorial layer between you and the customer. It's like Suck Plus One.

*Keep in mind, I may someday have to sell software that way myself. If that happens you can rest assured, the taste in my mouth will be bad.
posted by JHarris at 12:33 PM on November 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


What you did, Blazecock, was assert that somone did not understand the definition of a commonly-used word. Which, in fact, does apply to this situation, according the to the dictionary I consulted.

What you're saying now is that that's not real censorship. Which is what you should have said in teh first place, instead of insinuating that other people are just stupid.

You see, in other words, to be confusing "you don't know what censorship means" with "I disagree with you about what is egregious enough to merit use of the magically inflammatory word censorship."

Since you've now made slightly clearer what you think is required for censorship, I can state with confidence that I think your working definition is pretty inadequate. Basically you seem to be saying that as long as it's feasiable for someone to do what the app is designed to do, banning the app can't constitute censorship. Which, first, would be nonsense; and second, is in no way what anyone in this thread who used the word was referring to.

First, it would be nonsense because you're confusing what the app does with what it communicates. A car helps you travel on the road; a Corvette helps you travel on the road really fast while communicating messages. (E.g., "I am a person with self image problems.")

Second, what people are arguing constitutes censorship is the removal of the app because of the caricatures. Which have nothing per se to do with the actions the app is designed to perform, but which did communicate a message. (Which, since these are "Mad-style", would for most people probably be something along the lines of "don't trust anyone over 12.")
posted by lodurr at 12:42 PM on November 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


You don't know what censorship is.

Censor: To examine and expurgate. Apple examines their apps, and expurgates them from its App Store if they do not meet their gnomic expectations. Corporations can censor too, just ask any television network. It may not be in the government-sponsored form, and it may be something of a countertop cyclone by comparison, but it does seem to be censorship. So says me anyhow.

But the iphone app that has listings of where sex offenders[...]

Has anyone thought that may be the reason Apple rejected this app, snark snark?
posted by JHarris at 12:49 PM on November 9, 2009


Since you've now made slightly clearer what you think is required for censorship, I can state with confidence that I think your working definition is pretty inadequate. Basically you seem to be saying that as long as it's feasiable for someone to do what the app is designed to do, banning the app can't constitute censorship. Which, first, would be nonsense; and second, is in no way what anyone in this thread who used the word was referring to.

Oh, I think someone stating that the Mac guy should wear a Third Reich uniform was ABSOLUTELY referring to censorship in the way you say people weren't doing.

There is censorship and there is censorship. Technically, yes, the "censorship" Apple is practicing in banning its app is censorship -- in the sense that people cannot use that particular program on an Apple machine. But Apple is forbidden from going further than that, and also preventing people from distributing that software in other avenues. The kind of "censorship" referred to in this case is only in Apple-Land; we can call it "private censorship", if you will, and such actions are permitted for all people who have private enterprises. (Hell, the mods here practice the same kind of "censorship" by deleting the occasional dickish comment.)

However, the kind of "censorship" people mean when they sling HURF DURF NAZI FASCIST comments about is the kind of actions which ARE forbidden by the First Amendment -- and that refers solely to government-sanctioned censorship. Not being able to download a specific app to your IPhone is not something caused by the government, nor is it a violation of the First Amendment.

If, however, the government ITSELF forced Apple to delete that app, THEN we would have a case of Big-C, Call-in-the-Supreme-court Censorship on our hands. In Apple's case, though, what they are doing is perfectly legal -- precisely BECAUSE it is feasible for someone to "do what the app is designed to do" outside of Apple's purview.

In short: The first Amendment defines censorship as the government coming in and saying "you can't say that at all ever." What Apple is doing is only saying "you can't say that in THIS space, but we can't stop you from saying it somewhere else."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:50 PM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oh, I think someone stating that the Mac guy should wear a Third Reich uniform was ABSOLUTELY referring to censorship in the way you say people weren't doing.

WOuld you like to explain that one? And while you're at it, explain how you know that the person who made that analogy was arguing that Apple was preventing access to congresscritters, and not that they were talking about censoring the cartoon caricatures? Which seemed (and still seems) to me to be pretty obviously what they were talking about?

You can't have a really useful concept of "censorship" that applies only to governments. Corporations have power, too. Especially in our society.

I also hope you're not doing some kind of special pleading thing on Apple's behalf: e.g. that they have no market power, say, but Microsoft or Google or Fox does.
posted by lodurr at 12:58 PM on November 9, 2009


Basically you seem to be saying that as long as it's feasiable for someone to do what the app is designed to do, banning the app can't constitute censorship.

It would be censorship if the government made Apple the only official channel for information on how to contact one's elected officials. So far as I can tell, I can still pull up contact information via the web.

It would be censorship if the government made Apple the only official channel through which Tom Richmond could publish his artwork. So far as I can tell, he can still publish his work anywhere else.

Since neither of these conditions is true, despite shrill insistence otherwise, there is no censorship going on here.

For better or worse, Apple is the gatekeeper for Apple's iPhone application store, only. If you don't like it, don't shop on the app store, or don't buy an iPhone. Buy a Droid and deal with Motorola/Google/Verizon's arbitrariness, instead. Or one of many other phones, each of which having its own set of restrictions.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:59 PM on November 9, 2009


WOuld you like to explain that one? And while you're at it, explain how you know that the person who made that analogy was arguing that Apple was preventing access to congresscritters, and not that they were talking about censoring the cartoon caricatures? Which seemed (and still seems) to me to be pretty obviously what they were talking about?

Because the kind of censorship prohibited under the First Amendment is government-spawned censorship. The kind of censorship practiced by the Third Reich was also government-spawned. Apple is not a government. QED.

You can't have a really useful concept of "censorship" that applies only to governments. Corporations have power, too. Especially in our society.

As BP has pointed out, absolutely nothing is stopping you from hitting Google and obtaining your congressperson's contact info that way. Corporations may have power, but if all that it takes to subvert that power is...going online and looking something up on Google, that seems pretty damn weak to me.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:03 PM on November 9, 2009


WOuld you like to explain that one?

Basically, we had someone Godwin the thread earlier. Comparing Apple's iPhone app approval process with the day-to-day operations of Nazi Germany is almost as silly as painting a Hitler mustache on Obama — either way you're just not going to get taken seriously.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:08 PM on November 9, 2009


So what you guys seem to be saying is that it has to be the government to be censorship. Which is incredibly silly, but OK, if that's how you want to define 'censorship' it's useful for me to know that, because I now know that you use a non-standard definition of the term and I can adjust my reading of your posts accordingly.

Either that or you're saying that this is a game where whenever anyone says any one of several magical phrases (which include "SS", "Hitler", "Storm Trooper", and a few others), then the subject of the messages in which those code-words were used may no longer be discussed.

Whatever. [shrugs/] As you would say, there's nothing stopping me from deleting this thread from my Recent Comments history.
posted by lodurr at 1:18 PM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


As you would say, there's nothing stopping me from deleting this thread from my Recent Comments history.

Unless big, bad Apple stops you, first.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:22 PM on November 9, 2009


So what you guys seem to be saying is that it has to be the government to be censorship.

No -- we are saying that the kind of Censorship Apple is protected by our Constitution.

If you're going to accuse Apple of "OMG CENSORSHIP" and break out the pitchforks because of what they did, then I have the right to accuse the mods here of "OMG CENSORSHIP" and break out the pitchforks because I had a couple comments deleted.

But the thing is, Apple -- just like Metafilter, and just like every other damn private institution in this country and every other private organization and every other individual -- has the right to determine what is and is not cricket for conversations within their own little private turf. If you want to post on Metafilter/use Apple products/eat at Applebees/visit my friend Luther, you have to abide by the rules that Metafilter/Apple/Applebees/my friend Luther set up. And if you break those rules, the mods/Apple/the Applebees' Manager/Luther can warn you, and if you still don't comply, the mods can delete your comment/Apple can delete your app/Applebees can kick you out/Luther can tell you to buzz off. Is it censorship? Only technically. But it is censorship that Metafilter/Apple/Applebees/Luther is perfectly within their rights to enforce.

What's more, when you bought your iPhone, you know that little screen that popped up when you registered saying that you had to accept the terms of use? Your accepting those terms right there confirmed that you would abide by EVERY decision Apple made when it came to deciding what content they wanted.

If you are truly as upset about censorship as you claim, and you define it as broadly as you do, then you need to take a closer look at the terms of agreement you read when you bought your iPhone/signed up on Metafilter/etc.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:28 PM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


I remember when Microsoft used to be the bad guys. Leave it to Apple to make MS look sweet and friendly.
posted by mullingitover at 1:44 PM on November 9, 2009


you know that little screen that popped up when you registered saying that you had to accept the terms of use? Your accepting those terms right there confirmed that you would abide by EVERY decision Apple made

I agree with everything else you said about the First Amendment being on the side of Apple here. But software terms-of-use "contracts"? Probably not even legally binding. Definitely not morally binding.

Telling me I can't complain about something because I clicked OK on one of those things? Risible.
posted by straight at 1:45 PM on November 9, 2009


I agree with everything else you said about the First Amendment being on the side of Apple here. But software terms-of-use "contracts"? Probably not even legally binding. Definitely not morally binding.

Telling me I can't complain about something because I clicked OK on one of those things? Risible.


Oh, I'm not saying you can't complain at all -- I'm sorry you got that idea. I'm only saying that if you're going to complain, don't make "censorship on par with Stalinism" be one of the complaints you lodge against them.

"Idiots who wouldn't know a good app if it bit them in the butt," however, is perfectly fine.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:49 PM on November 9, 2009


Apple should really only reject apps for technical/security reasons. Let the lawyers handle defamatory issues.

I know, that's not going to happen, but that's also why I never want an iPhone. Well, also because of the lack of actual keys - the touch thing isn't a good choice for me. And also because AT&T has no service here ...
posted by krinklyfig at 1:53 PM on November 9, 2009


No -- we are saying that the kind of Censorship Apple is protected by our Constitution.

... and that's relevant....how?
posted by lodurr at 2:05 PM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


And Rush used to think the REAL place to be was Compuserve. The Internet had 'internet nimrods' and wasn't worth his time.

To be fair, Compuserve predated the Internet (outside academia) and was the first large commercial online service. Once AOL joined the Internet, he had a point. At least the Compuserve crowd tended to be early adopters and technically oriented, such as my uncle, who was online before anyone in my family back in the '80s.
posted by krinklyfig at 2:05 PM on November 9, 2009


... and that's relevant....how?

Because in buying an Apple product, and in clicking the "I accept the terms of use" agreement, you accepted their right to determine the content the would and would not carry. Included in that is their right to censor content within their own networks.

and the fact that they are permitted to do this by the Constitution means that it is NOT the kind of censorship that the "oh it's just like stalinism" people are complaining about.

Again -- we're not saying you have to suck it up and take it. We're not saying don't complain about it at all. We're just saying that when you DO complain, calling it "censorship" sounds really fucking lame.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:17 PM on November 9, 2009


MetaFilter: Usual gang of idiots
posted by oaf at 2:24 PM on November 9, 2009


As life grows more commercial, capitalist and corporate, private censorship becomes more an issue and more deleterious to the public good.

On the other hand, this is likely the first press Mad has had since Prohias died.
posted by klangklangston at 2:45 PM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


empresscallipygos, I think you're missing my point: Which is that as far as I can see nobody has claimed that this is a constitutional issue.

However you want to use the term "censorship", it remains true that in general usage it doesn't require that the censorship be exercised by a government. Time magazine removing a caricature of [president bush / president obama / the prophet mohammed ] because they're afraid that it might offend someone would, in my view, constitute censorship.

Is it jackboots and impending doom? Of course not. I realize some people up-thread have equated them. That doesn't mean the idea is invalid.

IOW: "Godwin" don't mean "we can't talk about it no more."
posted by lodurr at 2:52 PM on November 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


A matter of real-life censorship, in terms of restricting public access to government services by way of computers, is forcing people to use Windows and Internet Explorer to access government sites and submit paperwork (such as been the case for grant submissions, for example). There are much larger and more insidious ways in which Microsoft — a genuine monopoly — is inundated throughout the system. Honestly, Apple is the least of anyone's worries, for now. If and when they get the market share to do what Microsoft does every day, let's have an honest discussion about it. But this carping about the app store kind of misses the forest for the trees, Hitler and SS references aside.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:57 PM on November 9, 2009


You can't have a really useful concept of "censorship" that applies only to governments. Corporations have power, too. Especially in our society.

This. A thousand times.

People who bitch about 'censorship only applies government' sit along sit pretty high in my completely doesn't fucking get it ratings system.
posted by Jimbob at 3:09 PM on November 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


"Sure, it's annoying sometimes, but the payoff is that you can download and install anything from the store onto your phone -- anything -- without any fear of spyware, viruses and so on. That's worth something, and it's the best reason for all devices to have 'marketplaces' rather than the wide-open PC world we all know and, um, love."

Your comment is advocating DRM as being good for consumers. Considering the history of DRM for consumers (like Microsoft's oh so ironically named Plays for Sure) it's easily debatable whether the marketplace is actually worth anything but a kick in the pants. I can't afford the ridiculous monthly fees of this service but even if I could having a corporation in control of what I could do with my hardware would give me pause.
posted by Mitheral at 4:31 PM on November 9, 2009


Maybe off topic, but I've been curious about this for a while, and since we're comparing Apple to the SS...
What is the difference between Microsoft integrating IE into their OS and Apple refusing to allow other browsers on the iPhone? Is it just a matter of market share? If so, is there a magic percentage that would force Apple to further open up the iPhone? (honestly not snarking, just never understood the distinction)

(now, to jump into the fight)
What's more, when you bought your iPhone, you know that little screen that popped up when you registered saying that you had to accept the terms of use? Your accepting those terms right there confirmed that you would abide by EVERY decision Apple made when it came to deciding what content they wanted.

When I bought my iPhone, there was no app store. The app store seemed to be the result of iPhone users and developers bitching and whining for Apple to provide an SDK. I probably agreed to more terms of use with each upgrade, but that always seemed unfair since Apple insisted on bundling stuff I didn't need with the bug fixes I did.

I understand that that's part of the deal I got into when I first bought the phone, but as the deal changed, it's not like I had much choice...

...until the end of my 2-year contract and DROOOOID!
posted by SAC at 4:32 PM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Microsoft — a genuine monopoly

lol, cause there's no such thing as the Mac which has been gaining market share... (even if you accept the "monopoly" ruling from a decade ago, the market has significantly shifted since then and it's ridiculous to still think of MS as a monopoly, IMO). The OS world is more competitive than it has been in decades.

In the smartphone world (in the new meaning, where smartphone = touchscreen phone w/ apps), like it or not, Apple is the gorilla right now.


We're just saying that when you DO complain, calling it "censorship" sounds really fucking lame.

I really don't know what to call it then. It's clearly censorship. You are the one who somehow thinks that only applies to government action, even though everyone else (and the dictionary) disagrees. It's not a first amendment issue, but it IS censorship. And many people are fine with censorship, by corporations (Disney, Fox, etc) and even by governments (most of Europe, for example).
posted by wildcrdj at 4:47 PM on November 9, 2009


The heads actually bobble? So long as you can stop the motion by punching it in the face, I think that's a pretty bitching idea for turning a boring informational page into something mildly amusing.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:23 PM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


And adding whimsy (well-executed or not) to a Congressional Directory does move the target demographic in the 'youth' direction.

Moves the target demographic to Mad Magazine readers, you mean. I doubt that magazine even really exists any more, meaning it's probably targeting mid-40s/50s career politicians and high-ranking public employees.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:28 PM on November 9, 2009


...and the prize for bringing the conversation back around to the point goes to.... five fresh fish! [cue applause, fade out]
posted by lodurr at 5:39 PM on November 9, 2009


Mad still exists alright, after a fashion. I looked at it on the newsstand a few weeks ago. It was an odd experience. I kind of hate to put it this way, but, well, it just didn't seem funny anymore. Or even very edgy. Could just be that intense sensitivity I've developed to kids playing on my lawn...
posted by lodurr at 5:59 PM on November 9, 2009


Bear in mind that I'm not saying that I object to this thread in general or that Apple's rejection of the app in question isn't a viable topic (I've actually found it quite interesting), but...if someone could harness the passionate and outraged energy this thread has generated and direct it toward, I dunno, ending world hunger or something, that would be - well, I'd eat my hat, I reckon.
posted by Greg_Ace at 6:09 PM on November 9, 2009


lodurr: Mad still exists alright, after a fashion. I looked at it on the newsstand a few weeks ago. It was an odd experience. I kind of hate to put it this way, but, well, it just didn't seem funny anymore. Or even very edgy.

I remember when Cracked magazine was a pale and uninspired imitation of Mad. It appears the worm has turned.
posted by Greg_Ace at 6:13 PM on November 9, 2009


People who bitch about 'censorship only applies government' sit along sit pretty high in my completely doesn't fucking get it ratings system.

Okay, then, explain why not being able to use a specific app on your fancy pants phone, and thus having to buy a Droid instead, is EQUALLY AS HARMFUL as the government KILLING you because you're a reporter investigating a political corruption case.

It's not calling it "censorship" that I object to, it is equating the type of censorship that Apple is doing WITH the kind of censorship that governments do that I object to. Because having Apple pull an iPhone app is not even in the same REALM as a government censoring your speech. You can get a different app with the very same information Apple yanked -- the addresses to your congressperson -- on your iPhone, you're just missing the silly pictures. You can get that same information on Google, by calling your local voters' bureau, by calling your local town hall, or by going to your library. The one and only thing Apple is taking away from you by taking this app away is some silly pictures.

To equate that with the scale of censorship practiced by dictatorial governments is just SICKENING in the degree of its privilege, and I'm sure there are many dissidents worldwide who would be more than happy to personally draw you some fucking cartoons of congressmen if it would just get you to stop complaining that you were being oppressed by having a fucking IPHONE APP yanked away from you. Granted, they may jam them down your throat, but you'd have the cartoons the app would have given you, so now you've got what you were missing. Yay!

Talk about a "doesn't fucking get it ratings system." Jesus.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:37 PM on November 9, 2009


Okay, then, explain why not being able to use a specific app on your fancy pants phone, and thus having to buy a Droid instead, is EQUALLY AS HARMFUL as the government KILLING you because you're a reporter investigating a political corruption case.

Good grief, why would we even want to?

...equating the type of censorship that Apple is doing WITH the kind of censorship that governments do...

It would be helpful if you could point to some examples. I'm not seeing the "equating" you're speaking of.
posted by lodurr at 6:47 PM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


I don't know what Apple's so scared of - Palm always let you install anything you wanted, and that worked out OK.
posted by rfs at 6:54 PM on November 9, 2009


Exactly 1 person used the "nazi" comparison wrt censorship, and I don't even see where they did it (comment was deleted? it's referenced but doesn't show up).

Everyone else is simply arguing that it is in fact censorship, which amazes me that it's even under discussion. I don't know why this angers you so.
posted by wildcrdj at 6:59 PM on November 9, 2009


Good grief, why would we even want to?

If you don't want to equate what Apple's doing with what governments do, then why on earth are you fighting so hard against the people who are trying to differentiate BETWEEN what Apple's doing and what governments do? You say you don't want to do that, but that is precisely what you are doing.

It would be helpful if you could point to some examples. I'm not seeing the "equating" you're speaking of.

"Apple should just dress up the Mac guy in a Nazi SS uniform and get it over with."

Which has, in the time that we've been arguing back and forth, been stricken from this thread, ironically.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:01 PM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


wow, ace. Funny that apple used to be all counterculture and hip, and M$ were the bad guys, as mentioned upthread. At least M$ lets you install whatever you like on your PC.

*installs SS_Uniform.exe*
posted by marienbad at 7:49 PM on November 9, 2009


Honestly, most of you calling this censorship wouldn't know censorship if it bit you in the ass.

A bunch of whiny consumers acting like babies when they can't buy a joke app through Apple's app store does not make for censorship. Apple rejecting an app from their own private store is not fucking censorship.

If you want to find out the meaning of censorship, go up to an Iranian prison guard and show him your dictionary. He'll smile politely before making you and your dictionary disappear. That's censorship.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 7:50 PM on November 9, 2009


Feh. Lowbrow chuckles for jagoffs.

"They're really sticking it to that Spiro Agnew guy."
(plus, you can rearrange the letters in his name to spell out GROW A PENIS, check it out)

posted by porn in the woods at 7:56 PM on November 9, 2009


If you don't want to equate what Apple's doing with what governments do, then why on earth are you fighting so hard against the people who are trying to differentiate BETWEEN what Apple's doing and what governments do? You say you don't want to do that, but that is precisely what you are doing.

Wow, I never saw it that way before: You're either being beaten down by jackbooted thugs or everything is peaches and rosebuds. Thanks for opening my eyes.

To turn off the sarcasm for a moment: What I am arguing (I can't speak for anyone else) is simply the proposition that crying "Godwin!" does not mean there's nothing left to talk about. From what I can see, exactly one person took it to the extreme; other people pointed out (quite rightly) that by definition, censorship had occurred, and what's more, for the most usual and common of reasons: fear.

What I'm not understanding is why you and Blazecock feel so invested in this idea that we MUST NOT USE THAT WORD CENSORSHIP!!!! for anything less than the violent oppression by a government. From my perspective, that's a little like saying we can't call anything assault unless there's blood spilled.
posted by lodurr at 8:54 PM on November 9, 2009


Apple rejecting an app from their own private store is not fucking censorship.

Can you explain why?

Seriously, I'd like to hear your explanation for how this does not fit the definition of censorship -- particularly with reference to the case. You haven't actually done that, yet -- you've expressed opinions w.r.t. how you use the term "censorship", but you haven't paid any attention to the way other people use the term, or to the fact that even your big-daddy-gummmint-sponosored-gun-totin' censorship had to start somewhere.

So while you're at it explaining why this isn't censorship, perhaps you can elucidate for us the point at which we get to protest against examination and expurgation? Do we have to wait until there's a gun pointed at us? Or can we do it when they don't let us download the Kama Sutra anymore? How about a cartoon of Mohammed?

To me it looks like you are taking on a pretty big responsibility here, Blazecock. You're setting yourself up to be the arbiter of what constitutes censorship.
posted by lodurr at 9:02 PM on November 9, 2009


I'm not seeing the comparison of Apple to Nazi Germany, but I AM seeing a comparison to the kind of attempts by hardware manufacturers to control third-party content that have been addressed before in lawsuits such as Sega versus Accolade, and the anti-trust case brought against Microsoft.

Why should Apple be able to control the avenues by which I install software on my phone? The issue isn't so much that they reject content from their AppStore (which they are perfectly entitled to do) but that they try and eliminate all other means of installing apps on the phone such that having your app rejected pretty much means you can't publish your app.

If M$ wasn't allowed to try and force me (meaning bundle together) to use Internet Explorer when I run their OS, why is Apple allowed to force me (meaning, void my warranty if I attempt alternate means, e.g. jailbreaking) to use iTunes/AppStore to install software on their phone?
posted by L.P. Hatecraft at 9:27 PM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


What I'm not understanding is why you and Blazecock feel so invested in this idea that we MUST NOT USE THAT WORD CENSORSHIP!!!! for anything less than the violent oppression by a government.

People should reserve use of the word censorship for when it is actually meaningful, instead of throwing it into a conversation like a rhetorical crutch.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:38 PM on November 9, 2009


If someone could harness the passionate and outraged energy this thread has generated and direct it toward, I dunno, ending world hunger or something, that would be - well, I'd eat my hat, I reckon.

That's about how productive we'd be, too.

Within weeks of the MeFi Mobilization, crates and crates of delicious, nutritional hats would be airdropped all over Africa.
posted by rokusan at 10:35 PM on November 9, 2009


Apple just murdered that poor little app! Apple must not be allowed to get away with this capital punishment! Filthy murderers!

Er...no...they pirated it! I mean, they kidnapped it! Uh...censured it?
posted by straight at 11:08 PM on November 9, 2009


If you want to find out the meaning of censorship, go up to an Iranian prison guard and show him your dictionary. He'll smile politely before making you and your dictionary disappear.

Even assuming Iranian guards would politely smile or really care for lexical discussions, him jailing you for pointing out the meaning of censorship is still not censorship. That would be totalitarianism.

Censorship, otoh, is this: I'm in Malaysia right now, and they were showing the TV series, Dollhouse, yesterday on a private television channel. When it got to a point where two actors were about to kiss, they cut that scene and moved on to the next. That's censorship at its clearest; some entity removing parts that it doesn't deem worthy of a public audience.

Oftentimes, such a removal could extend to the entire cultural object; as a result, songs such as Prince Igor could be made illegal, books such as "Le Philosophie du Bedouir" could be withdrawn from public circulation. All of which done in a peaceful setting, with no threat of contra-legal violence and possibly done by a private firm with international interests. And yes, necessarily called as censorship, by the actors concerned themselves, without anybody reaching for a dictionary.

Except for the fact that the television firm yesterday stripped a TV series and Apple blocked an app, I fail to see the distinction between the television-firm's (self-stated) censorship yesterday and Apple's actions.
posted by the cydonian at 11:28 PM on November 9, 2009


That probably has more to do with the fact that iPhone apps don't run in privileged mode, which is also true of most windows programs these days, but obviously not all of them.

Yeah. Like Quickbooks.

As long as you remember to read the vista security dialogs, and keep your system patched, you should be OK.

That's hilarious.

I've cleaned several machines this year owned by people who did just that. You have no idea.
posted by krinklyfig at 11:49 PM on November 9, 2009


Even assuming Iranian guards would politely smile or really care for lexical discussions, him jailing you for pointing out the meaning of censorship is still not censorship.

I'm afraid it is, as you're being silenced by the government. It's one reason why countries have political prisoners.

Except for the fact that the television firm yesterday stripped a TV series and Apple blocked an app, I fail to see the distinction between the television-firm's (self-stated) censorship yesterday and Apple's actions.

The distinction is that Malaysia is a Muslim country and its government tightly controls all forms of media, including television.

Apple is not a Muslim country, it does not operate as an agency on behalf of any government (including the state of Malaysia), and it does not control any form of media in any country anywhere in the world.

Therefore, when Dollhouse gets edited, it's not because of the television station, but because of existing Malaysian state policy.

When Apple doesn't approve an application, that doesn't mean Apple works with the government to ensure you cannot run that application on any other phone. It just means Apple will not sell, for whatever reason, that application on its private storefront. You may even be able to purchase or otherwise download said application through Cydia or other means that Apple has no legal control over.

Apple is not a government. If it chooses not to resell your product, that does not mean it is censoring you. You can make apps for other phones or even redistribute your application through a legal alternative. The government does not get involved.

I'll say it again because I like banging my head against the wall: Apple is not a government, the government is not mandating that you buy anything from Apple, and therefore you are not being censored if Apple won't carry your product in their store. Further, if you do not own an Apple iPhone or if you are just a consumer, you're not being censored when someone else's application does not get resold by Apple.

Save your handwringing for stuff in this world that actually matters.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:50 PM on November 9, 2009


People should reserve use of the word censorship for when it is actually meaningful, instead of throwing it into a conversation like a rhetorical crutch.

So, why is it you think Apple decided to remove this app? Given, the people who make these decisions are low-level and can be overridden, but what is it that caused someone at Apple to think the political caricatures would be offensive?

Or, put it a different way, how did we get to the point where the political atmosphere is so toxic that harmless caricatures which have been common for centuries are seen as sinister? These aren't racist or sexist. They're pretty tame exaggerations, like the guy at the state fair who will draw one of these with you as the subject for $20, not even approaching op-ed cartoons. So, what does that say about Apple's corporate culture, and why is this purportedly forward-thinking company so completely and inexplicably cowed by some ethereal cultural pressure to be inoffensive?

And this isn't the first time we could ask this question based on their decisions on what goes in the app store. Like it or not, but what's happening with each decision and sites like this talking about it is something of a conversation in a bigger sense, Apple reacting to the culture reacting to its decisions, and so on. They're very good at eliciting and cultivating a strong sense of desire and class, but they're not so good at being a true gatekeeper of culture, and in the position they're in with the iPhone and the app store, that is indeed their role. Small as that role is, nobody is paying attention to any other phone and their decisions to reject apps, so what they do is magnified and resonates. I think other people have said as much before. So, why are they choosing to play it so close, so safe, to the point of absurdity?

I don't think the answer is something we should casually dismiss.
posted by krinklyfig at 12:11 AM on November 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


why is it you think Apple decided to remove this app?

I have no idea, ask Apple. Any answer you or I would provide would be complete speculation.

And this isn't the first time we could ask this question based on their decisions on what goes in the app store.

If it really bothers you that Apple is not reselling someone else's product, don't shop on the app store, and don't use an iPhone.

Consumers, it is really that easy. No government is forcing you to use an iPhone. Hell, 95% of the users on Metafilter keep making a big deal about how much the iPhone sucks and they don't want one. Just don't get one. Move on. Move on to your Droid and deal with the headaches that Verizon and Google will give you. Or use whatever other phone you want. No one is censoring you.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:28 AM on November 10, 2009


EmpressCallipygos: "
Because in buying an Apple product, and in clicking the "I accept the terms of use" agreement, you accepted their right to determine the content the would and would not carry. Included in that is their right to censor content within their own networks.
"

I think I see the thing that is causing the arguing here....

I think most of the people here who consider Apple's policy to be censorship are that way because of Apple's nothing-but-the-App-Store policy. To put other software on the iPhone you have to jailbreak it, a procedure which is not just unsupported, but basically involves taking advantage of security holes, may be not without some danger, and goes against Apple's plan for what people do with the devices they fucking bought with their own money goddammit. Not to mention the whole EULA thing, which I find exceedingly distasteful.

When Apple did that, which is in line with how cell phones have generally been used but not computers, they imposed themselves as arbiters of the platform, and their software lockout system enforces the corporate will after the device leaves their custody.

It strikes me that, if another software outlet were available, one that lets people run other software on their iPhones, without Apple's explicit approval but also without their explicit forbidding, applying the first amendment defense to Apple makes a lot more sense. Then it is much more reasonable that Apple doesn't sell things they don't like on their App Store, because there is another game in town. As it is, it is not only that Apple doesn't want to provide that software, but they don't want anyone else providing that software either, limiting others' speech through their own. In that event, I can see Apple as charged with more of a moral mandate to be less capricious in what they forbid.

In short, if you demand to be appointed gatekeeper of what people do with your devices after you sell them, then you need to be responsible with that power.
posted by JHarris at 1:17 AM on November 10, 2009 [3 favorites]


blazecock pileon: People should reserve use of the word censorship for when it is actually meaningful, instead of throwing it into a conversation like a rhetorical crutch.

Unfortunately, you're apparently not willing to provide real insight to why you think it's "meaningful" somewhere else and not here.

blazecock pileon later, on why the app was rejected: I have no idea, ask Apple. Any answer you or I would provide would be complete speculation.

Maybe not so much. Here's Apple's rejection notice, from the linked blog post:
Subject: Bobble Rep – 111th Congress Edition 1.0: Application Submission Feedback

Please include the line below in follow-up emails for this request.

Follow-up: 87280909

Dear Mr. Griggs,

Thank you for submitting Bobble Rep – 111th Congress Edition to the App Store. We’ve reviewed Bobble Rep – 111th Congress Edition and determined that we cannot post this version of your iPhone application to the App Store because it contains content that ridicules public figures and is in violation of Section 3.3.14 from the iPhone Developer Program License Agreement which states:

“Applications may be rejected if they contain content or materials of any kind (text, graphics, images, photographs, sounds, etc.) that in Apple’s reasonable judgement may be found objectionable, for example, materials that may be considered obscene, pornographic, or defamatory.”

A screenshot of this issue has been attached for your reference.

If you believe that you can make the necessary changes so that Bobble Rep – 111th Congress Edition does not violate the iPhone Developer Program License Agreement, we encourage you to do so and resubmit it for review.

Regards,
iPhone Developer Program
So the reason is that you can't 'ridicule public figures'.

Empress is right that this is by definition not a 1st amendment issue, because it's not the government acting. But it's still censorship, because the entity (Apple) is controlling the mode of expression that can be used in this venue (the iPhone), and they're doing it in a way that constrains what would be accepted by the vast majority of people living in this country as normal and acceptable behavior.

The fact that someone else's caricatures might get past actually makes it worse, because the the ruling becomes arbitrary as a fucntion of the examiner. Why is that worse? Simple: Intermittent reinforcement will often tend to have a greater chilling affect than stringent enforcement. In a regime of stringent enforcement, people learn how to get around or break the rules; in a regime of intermittent reinforcement, people don't know what the real rules are.

So maybe you're right (by accident), because maybe we could go out there and find cases where, say, Mort Drucker's "Send a note to your NY State legislator" app gets approved, and we're left to divine the rules: Is it because state legislators aren't public figures? Is Drucker's art more realistic? Less offensive in some other way?

Your zealous defense of the word "censorship" from any and all abuses is, AFAIAC, quite misguided. Let the word mean what it means and be used accordingly -- don't try to redefine it according to your own notions of what satisfies appropriate criteria for "real censorship." Let us apply the commonly used and commonly understood definition by ourselves.
posted by lodurr at 4:13 AM on November 10, 2009


JHarris: I think most of the people here who consider Apple's policy to be censorship are that way because of Apple's nothing-but-the-App-Store policy.

Thanks for clarifying that. People do have a great tendency to think everyone in the room is seeing the same elephant.
posted by lodurr at 4:21 AM on November 10, 2009


But it's still censorship, because the entity (Apple) is controlling the mode of expression that can be used in this venue (the iPhone)

Technically speaking, there is absolutely nothing stopping Richmond from releasing his source code for people to compile on their own, or reselling his application via Cydia's storefront, or reprogramming his application as a web app that is accessible through the Safari browser. Further, there's nothing at all stopping him from addressing Apple's concerns before he resubmits his application — which is a common tactic that many, many iPhone developers employ to resell their products through Apple's storefront.

If this were really "censorship" meant to silence Mad Magazine, Richmond would not have received a letter, much less any invitation to resubmit his app, much less Apple spending any further time to review any newer versions of his product or any other software projects he may develop.

Your redefinition of the meaning of "censorship" here is so broad and vague as to make the use of this word almost applicable for any situation where a private party decides not to do what you want, and therefore renders the term meaningless. You're using "censorship" in a sensationalist and shrill manner, in the same way that Apple was equated with the Nazi Party in an earlier comment (before that comment was "censored" by Metafilter's moderators), so as to short-circuit people's responses. Your use of this word plays on people's emotions and is manipulative.

It is a rhetorical crutch, because you're starting with the premise {Apple == Bad} and you (and others in this thread) need to manipulate people into agreeing with you, without actually making a legitimate argument for it. Honestly, given the fact that an application with the same functionality is already available on the App Store, and given the technical options open to Richmond, no one should take your accusations (or those from the Nazi accuser) too seriously.

Apple is not a government. Apple does not operate on behalf of a government. Apple does not have any kind of control over media to the extent that its decisions keep people from accessing public resources, such as contact information for politicians. Apple does not have a memory hole, down which contact info for politicians disappears. Apple does not control many of the alternative methods for accessing such data. Apple can't even control use of its own technology for accessing said data. Apple has absolutely no control over the wide ecosystem of cellphones from which said data can be accessed.

In other words, this is not censorship in any kind of meaningful way, such that the word has genuine application to this situation.

Censorship is a very real and very troubling aspect of authoritarian and totalitarian states, which often commit violence and murder against dissenters. Your and others use of the word "censorship" where it does not apply dilutes its meaning and helps make it harder for people to fight it where it really occurs and causes harm. Save the hyperbole for when it counts.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:08 AM on November 10, 2009


Your redefinition of the meaning of "censorship" here ...

Would you please just effing drop this claim? I've argued already and provided evidence that you're the one redefining 'censorship,' and you've made no "meaningful" challenge to that claim.
posted by lodurr at 5:16 AM on November 10, 2009


Would you please just effing drop this claim?

Are you censoring BP?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:27 AM on November 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


I've argued already and provided evidence that you're the one redefining 'censorship,' and you've made no "meaningful" challenge to that claim.

"Technically speaking, there is absolutely nothing stopping Richmond from releasing his source code for people to compile on their own, or reselling his application via Cydia's storefront, or reprogramming his application as a web app that is accessible through the Safari browser. Further, there's nothing at all stopping him from addressing Apple's concerns before he resubmits his application — which is a common tactic that many, many iPhone developers employ to resell their products through Apple's storefront...

Apple is not a government. Apple does not operate on behalf of a government. Apple does not have any kind of control over media to the extent that its decisions keep people from accessing public resources, such as contact information for politicians. Apple does not have a memory hole, down which contact info for politicians disappears. Apple does not control many of the alternative methods for accessing such data. Apple can't even control use of its own technology for accessing said data. Apple has absolutely no control over the wide ecosystem of cellphones from which said data can be accessed."

Your redefinition of the word "censorship" is manipulative and wrong.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:27 AM on November 10, 2009


Your redefinition of the word "censorship" is manipulative and wrong.

Pot? Got a kettle here for ya.

Your insistence that we're redefining the word is pigheaded to say the least. It's also intensely manipulative: If you keep saying it enough times (never actually justifying it), then people will start using it on your terms.

I get it. You're claiming the language. Manipulating the conversation so that we talk about things the way you want to talk about it. I totally get that.

I also totally get that you think you're right. What you seem to be refusing to get is that you don't have authority on this matter.
posted by lodurr at 6:14 AM on November 10, 2009


Are you censoring BP?

If I had the capacity (or authority, for that matter*) to remove his posts, and did so, then I would be censoring him.

I'm simply asking him to stop with the claims that he has some special authority to define the word "censorship."

(If I wasn't sure that BP or someone else would immediately scream OMG GODDDDDDWWWWWIIIIIIINNNNNNN!, I'd point out the similarity to his manipulation of the language to the Big Lie technique. Or to the technique common in cults (e.g. Scientology) of redefining the language so that it suddenly means what you need it to. But since I don't want to be accused ad nauseum of Godwinning, I won't do that.)

--
*Here's another neat thing about censorship: It's almost always done by someone who has the lawful authority to do so. Book burnings? Bannings? Totally lawful almost every time and place you see them...neat, huh?
posted by lodurr at 6:19 AM on November 10, 2009


On reflection: Let me make this simple for you, BP.

I challenge you to cite a definition of "Censorship" that satisfies your criteria. Preferably not the fourth or fifth entry for the definition you cite, and preferably not from a journal of law and ethics or something -- a dictionary would be good. Something people would actually use to gain an understanding of what the word means.

Hell, cite a discussion in the Wikipedia article. I haven't looked there; I could be setting myself up big time on this, but what the hell.
posted by lodurr at 6:52 AM on November 10, 2009


Okay -- but exactly what does expanding the definition of censorship to include this particular instance actually gain you?

Technically, the word "censorship" is like the word "cult". It's a loaded word, and some definitions for that word are broader than others -- but because it's such a loaded word, some people exploit the broader definition so as to paint something with a more evil brush and skew audience sympathy. In other words, Unitarianism is technically a "cult" too, but when people say "cult" they think of Jim Jones, they don't think of Unitarians. So calling something a "cult" sets up a negative association in the listener's mind -- which may be an unfair association.

Technically it's accurate, yes. But in practical reality, it's not quite the same thing. Unitarians are not a "cult" to the same degree that the Branch Davidians were a "cult." So most people, unless they really wanna grind an axe, don't really use the word "cult" to describe Unitarians, even though they technically be accurate in doing so.

Just like technically, most people don't refer to a business restricting the language on its web site as "censorship", even though they would also be technically accurate in doing so. Because "censorship" sets up a negative association in the listener's mind. Granted, the people who have been SAYING it in here may indeed intend to set up a negative association in the listener's mind (you've made that more than clear).

But often, if you use those broader definitions in the heat of passion, you run the risk of making yourself look like you're overreacting a bit. In the "cult" case, someone calling the Unitarians a "cult" will make a lot of people look at you and think, "you're REALLY equating THEM with the Branch Davidians? REALLY?..."

And honestly, in my case, my response has been fueled by, "You're REALLY equating not being able to use an iPhone app with something like government restriction on the press? REALLY?"

So, yes, TECHNICALLY you are right in calling it Censorship -- but do you REALLY want such a phyrric victory in fighting for this claim? Because calling it censorship in the first place -- equating not being able to use a single specific iPhone app with government restriction on newspapers, say -- is making you look really spoiled, and then continuing to pile on a huge argument about how you CAN SO call it censorship....really isn't helping, to be honest.

...Actually, forget it. BP, let the guy win -- he wants to call this censorship so bad, he wants so bad to try to enlist people to the NOBLE cause of using an iPhone app, let him. I doubt Amnesty International would agree he's got a case here, but...hey, if it makes him feel better...
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:58 AM on November 10, 2009


Okay -- but exactly what does expanding the definition of censorship to include this particular instance actually gain you?

I read this, and I thought, 'Good, now we're talking. Now we can have a discussion.'

Except that this isn't an expansion, it's simply a use of the word as it's defined. But nevermind that for now.

What does it "get us" to use the word the way that I'm using it? I'll only speak for myself; krinkyflig had some very salient points to make about this and a slightly different angle, as did some other people.

For me, what it gets us is that we can see that a system of control is being exercised to constrain what people are able to see. The system of control is the proprietary app store with tight content controls. So tight that someone up-thread (apparently without irony) cited the ability to download the Kama Sutra as an example of a breach. (Aside: It blows my mind that someone can see the availability of the Kama Sutra as a breach in standards. I think that says a lot about the particular sandbox we're discussing.)

What we get is the ability to see what's happening. For non-technical people (which is, by design, the vast, vast majority of iPhone users), you are effectively limited to the app store for your access to apps. Though the iPhone has excellent internet access, the interaction model that Apple wants us to use essentially routes around the Internet. They really don't want people using the net -- they want them using Apps, for various reasons that we're probably better off not going into in detail except that to say while the effects aren't desirable from the perspective of many, the primary motivations are probably related to user experience and CYA.

If the primary flow of internet interaction is going to be through Apps, and Apple controls what type of content can be delivered via Apps, then Apple is controlling the primary flow of non-person-to-person information.

The immediate libertarian response is that everyone is free to use the Internet. And they are. But I just don't have any sympathy for that response, because it ignores the reality of the device's interaction design, and it ignores the fact that the worst kind of censorship is not the kind that you know about, it's the kind that you never hear about.

But then you go on and say this: And honestly, in my case, my response has been fueled by, "You're REALLY equating not being able to use an iPhone app with something like government restriction on the press? REALLY?"

And again I have to ask you: What's with this "equating" crap? Nobody's equating. If you keep using the word "equating" to refer to analogies and metaphors, then I really don't know how to conclude that you're doing anything other than trying to manipulate the discussion.

And finally, you close: ...Actually, forget it. BP, let the guy win -- he wants to call this censorship so bad, he wants so bad to try to enlist people to the NOBLE cause of using an iPhone app, let him. I doubt Amnesty International would agree he's got a case here, but...hey, if it makes him feel better...

And again I have to ask "what the hell are you reading?" Because the only people I see in this thread who are using that kind of language are you and BP.
posted by lodurr at 7:23 AM on November 10, 2009


"Assault" includes both bludgeonings with a hammer and spitting on someone - but the word still has meaning. "Rape" includes both brutal sexual assaults and consensual sex with 17-year-olds - but the word still has meaning. "Terrorism" includes both 9/11 and putting baby powder in a few envelopes - but the word still has meaning. The point being that words are flexible enough to be applied to milder cases without destroying their meaning in the severe cases.

It is true that eventually there is a point where a word is stretched so far that it becomes trivialized -- e.g., calling the deletion of self-linked posts censorship. The question is whether that line is being crossed here. From my perspective, restrictions on political criticism by a corporation that controls an increasingly large share of the public's interaction with computers and the internet -- however mild, temporary, and ultimately irrelevant those restrictions might be -- are at least a distant cousin of classical government censorship. It certainly doesn't merit a crusade (or references to Hitler/Orwell/etc.), but it at least raises some good questions about what criteria should be used to filter content. Maybe it would be better to call it "corporate censorship" to make clear that this is something different.
posted by brain_drain at 7:32 AM on November 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


"Corporate censorship" is probably a good term from a standpoint of discursive discipline.
posted by lodurr at 7:35 AM on November 10, 2009


For me, what it gets us is that we can see that a system of control is being exercised to constrain what people are able to see. The system of control is the proprietary app store with tight content controls.

But the only people thus affected are iPhone users, and the only PLACE they are affected by this is on their iPhone. It would be one thing if they were barred from having access to this information across the board by everyone, but...no one is forcing anyone to use ONLY their iPhone for all their information.

What we get is the ability to see what's happening. For non-technical people (which is, by design, the vast, vast majority of iPhone users), you are effectively limited to the app store for your access to apps. Though the iPhone has excellent internet access, the interaction model that Apple wants us to use essentially routes around the Internet. They really don't want people using the net -- they want them using Apps, for various reasons that we're probably better off not going into in detail except that to say while the effects aren't desirable from the perspective of many, the primary motivations are probably related to user experience and CYA.

But, again, even though Apple wants us to use an interaction model that routes around the Internet, we don't have to. We all have the option of using our laptops for places where we can't use iPhone.

And incidentally, the very app you're talking about already exists, in a non-illustrated version, on iPhone anyway.

The immediate libertarian response is that everyone is free to use the Internet. And they are. But I just don't have any sympathy for that response, because it ignores the reality of the device's interaction design, and it ignores the fact that the worst kind of censorship is not the kind that you know about, it's the kind that you never hear about.

However, I have to wonder exactly how powerful a mode of censorship can be if all that you need to do to circumvent it is - go to another source of information?

That's why the "libertarian" response is that everyone can use the Internet. Because everyone can. In practical reality, the one and only thing you have lost by not having that specific app on your iPhone is convenience.

You're right, it's not available on one single handy little iPhone, and it'd be keen if it were all in one place. But the information is still available TO you. So you're not complaining about the information being removed FROM you -- you are complaining about being unable to access this information on one particular gadget alone, no matter how handy the device's design interactivity may be. You are overlooking the fact that this information is available to you elsewhere because "but I can't get it HERE."

Which means, in essence, your biggest reason for complaining is that it's inconvenient to not have this information on your iPhone. And...well, that's the argument I have no sympathy for. Shoot, I don't have access to any iPhone apps -- because I don't have an iPhone. But I manage to endure nevertheless -- because, hey, there are other sources out there. I regularly do research on a variety of topics -- and where the information I'm looking for isn't online, I don't complain about it not being online - I go to find another source, usually print. Or asking someone. I don't cry "censorship" just because I can't find that information in one specific place, I just look somewhere else. I imagine most people would do the same if they didn't have the information available to them on a given iPhone app-- they'd shrug and go to the Internet, if they needed it.

And, again, the only information that would be unavailable to people by virtue of this app being banned is -- some cartoons. As someone upthread stated, there is another app that enables connection with one's congressman, it just doesn't have the silly pictures.

So from where I'm sitting, it looks like this is all an argument about how you want the convenience of looking at silly pictures on your iPhone instead of having to go to the Internet, and....yeah, I'm not seeing why that'd be something I'd complain this much about.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:45 AM on November 10, 2009


Which means, in essence, your biggest reason for complaining....

This illustrates the gap in understanding, here: I'm not complaining about anything (except for the way that you and BP are redefining a common term). I'm simply identifying this as censorship.

The fact that you keep using all this value-laden language like "complaining" and "equating" is making it hard to have this discussion. You seem to have created a person in your mind who's fired-up and ready to storm Cupertino with pitchforks & torches. That's not me and I don't think it's any active participant in this thread.

BP for his part seems to be projecting his Apple Defamation League protection shield around the term "censorship," immediately flagging us all as Apple-haters.

There's so many straw men walking around here that if anybody fires up a smoke, we're in deep shit.
posted by lodurr at 8:43 AM on November 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


The fact that you keep using all this value-laden language like "complaining" and "equating" is making it hard to have this discussion. You seem to have created a person in your mind who's fired-up and ready to storm Cupertino with pitchforks & torches. That's not me and I don't think it's any active participant in this thread.

Then....I honestly don't understand to what purpose you are pursuing this debate. Are you just especially sensitive to semantics?...
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:47 AM on November 10, 2009


These semantics matter. What I care about is that you're (from my perspective) saying that nothing is censorship unless there is coercive force involved or it's done by the government (I'm honestly not sure which).

And to me that's just a preposterous (and frankly dangerous) position.
posted by lodurr at 8:53 AM on November 10, 2009


My position is more accurately described as "the censorship we should REALLY be concerned about is censorship which COMPLETELY AND WHOLLY removes public information from all media across the board in a given area."

In other words:

* A country blocking an entire web site from all of its citizens? That's a problem, because no one in that country can get that information anywhere else.

* A public library pulling a given book, so no one who lives in that community can read it via the library? That's a problem, because not everyone can afford to buy the book outright.

* A town or country revoking a newspaper's license and prohibiting them from publishing? That's a problem, because it is the government restricting an information source.

* A corporation removing content from its own devices, but ALSO removing that same content from every other form of media? That's a problem, because no one would then have access to that information.

* A corporation removing content from its own devices, but leaving other people free to find that information elsewhere? That's....something that happens every day, actually, so I'm not sure I see where there's cause for this much upset. The information exists in other places, and 99% of the people who don't get information in one source just go get it in a different source. So I'm not....seeing a problem.

In short, my position is "okay, technically yes, it's censorship, but only in the most technical sense of the word, and it's a rather piddling case of it, so I'm just not seeing why you're as all-fired upset as you are."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:07 AM on November 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


"the censorship we should REALLY be concerned about is censorship which COMPLETELY AND WHOLLY removes public information from all media across the board in a given area."

And I think that's way after the animals are out the barn door.

A corporation removing content from its own devices, but leaving other people free to find that information elsewhere?

Which is, to use your term, technically what's happened here. The problem arises when people have no way to know what they missed. Which is also what's happened here: The app store is sanitized, by some criteria we don't really get to know (because we know that the ones we do know about are inconsistently applied).

We have no way of knowing what we don't know. That's a problem.

Your better analogy might be Disneyfication. We know we're not going to get Mad in a Disney-branded product. But then I could point out that Disney isn't selling themselves as Your Access To The World. (a.k.a. "There's an App for That.")
posted by lodurr at 9:12 AM on November 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


>"the censorship we should REALLY be concerned about is censorship which COMPLETELY AND WHOLLY removes public information from all media across the board in a given area."

And I think that's way after the animals are out the barn door.


Personally, I think it's more like "worry about the major problems before you tackle the minor ones." Let's tackle the communities who have net-nanny software in their public library keeping women from looking up information about their breast cancer treatment because the software blocks "breast" as a search term, or the government preventing the media from showing pictures of the coffins of the soldiers killed in action, before we worry about "can I or can I not get this content on my fancy-pants gadget as well as having it on my computer"?

The problem arises when people have no way to know what they missed. Which is also what's happened here: The app store is sanitized, by some criteria we don't really get to know (because we know that the ones we do know about are inconsistently applied). We have no way of knowing what we don't know. That's a problem.

If we really have no way of knowing what apps get canned, how did we know about this?....in truth, if someone's app gets rejected by iPhone, a lot of times they pitch a fit on their own personal blog, or someone else does, and it gets zinged around cyberspace and posted here on Metafilter and peope get all "Apple sucks!" and soon everyone knows about this super-cool app that "we can't get" and...in short, we DO know what Apple blocked, which is how we got INTO this entire discussion.

So again, I'm....not seeing how our rights are being infringed all that much in this instance.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:22 AM on November 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


If it really bothers you that Apple is not reselling someone else's product, don't shop on the app store, and don't use an iPhone.

I don't. And yet, I will still offer my opinion about it.
posted by krinklyfig at 9:28 AM on November 10, 2009


Let's tackle the communities who have net-nanny software in their public library keeping women from looking up information about their breast cancer treatment because the software blocks "breast" as a search term, or the government preventing the media from showing pictures of the coffins of the soldiers killed in action, before we worry about "can I or can I not get this content on my fancy-pants gadget as well as having it on my computer"?

Let's tackle [all the problems in the world] before we worry about [anything else]?

It is possible to do both. It's even possible for some people to be concerned about particular issues and other people to concentrate on other issues.
posted by krinklyfig at 9:29 AM on November 10, 2009


Let's tackle [all the problems in the world] before we worry about [anything else]?

No.

Let's tackle [the problems that affect the basic rights for everyone] before we worry about [the problems that only affect the convenience of a priviledged few].
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:32 AM on November 10, 2009


It's even possible for some people to be concerned about particular issues and other people to concentrate on other issues.

Oh, I agree. I also understand the desire to have a situation that affects me and only me fixed.

But even though I have the ability to be concerned about how my neighbor leaves her trash out in the hallway and it stinks up the joint, that doesn't mean I'm going to categorize it as a larger problem than it actually is by calling it in to the EPA or the DOH. It's just my neighbor being inconsiderate, which can be handled by going to her directly or going to the landlord.

Unnecessarily escalating by right out of the gate declaring it "a public health hazard" and calling the police will just tie up resources better served elsewhere with more MAJOR public health hazards like gas leaks at the local grade school, say.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:36 AM on November 10, 2009


If we really have no way of knowing what apps get canned, how did we know about this?

... Which is, of course, not what I said. I said we have no way of knowing what we don't know.

We can of course get informed by someone who gets a lot of link juice that his app got rejected. We may or may not get that information, and when we get it, we may or may not get to know anything real about what got rejected and why.

"May not" in this case means that we don't know.

It's like the man said about some war a long time ago: "We lie to you by not telling you things." Is Apple lying to us? We don't know. I'd like to have a little more confidence on the matter. And I'd like to not be put into a situation where I have to take the default position of distrust. It's a lot more work. And when you make free and responsible behavior more work than mindless consumption of what you're given, guess what most people pick?
posted by lodurr at 9:53 AM on November 10, 2009


And when you make free and responsible behavior more work than mindless consumption of what you're given, guess what most people pick?

So you're saying the reason that Apple should stop blocking its content is because....its users are too lazy?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:57 AM on November 10, 2009


JHarris said:
I think most of the people here who consider Apple's policy to be censorship are that way because of Apple's nothing-but-the-App-Store policy. To put other software on the iPhone you have to jailbreak it, a procedure which is not just unsupported, but basically involves taking advantage of security holes, may be not without some danger, and goes against Apple's plan for what people do with the devices they fucking bought with their own money goddammit. Not to mention the whole EULA thing, which I find exceedingly distasteful.

Yes we all agreed to terms of service, but I think most people’s relationship to the device (and for some of us it’s the Pod not the Phone) is that we view it as a tiny computer. I think that the thing that is particularly galling about the situation is the idea that it would be just as easy to remain neutral about inflammatory or derogatory content and not reject anything, letting users vote with their download buttons. Computers and the internet are viewed culturally as places where anything goes. There’s an inherent cultural expectation that you can be the one who decides what content you put on your hardware. (At least for those of us who grew up on PCs.)

I don’t know that anyone’s really outlandishly upset. It seems like people want to talk about how this corporation interacts with their user community. And this could be an interesting topic. Facebook kept getting a ton of outcry every time it changed its user policy, so now they’ve set up site governance. The relationships between corporations and their users are changing and it would be nice if we could poke at this some. I don’t think that poking at this de-legitimizes the wrongness of government censorship. Maybe we could just stop using the word censorship entirely and talk about how this corporation is treating its user community in a less than desirable manner.

Does anyone actually know why Apple has chosen to police content? Is there something I don’t understand where for free or paid apps they are also a publisher and therefore able to be sued for libel or slander?

Also did I miss something somewhere where lodurr wanted to bring Amnesty International down on Apple’s head? Because that doesn’t seem like what he’s saying at all.
posted by edbles at 9:57 AM on November 10, 2009


Also did I miss something somewhere where lodurr wanted to bring Amnesty International down on Apple’s head? Because that doesn’t seem like what he’s saying at all.

He SAYS that's not what he's saying, but if that's the case, I genuinely don't understand the reason for the vitriol that IS there, so that's what I'm confused about.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:00 AM on November 10, 2009


I don't know why you see vitriol. None is intended and I frankly think you've got to be working pretty hard to see it.
posted by lodurr at 10:03 AM on November 10, 2009


From the wiki on the App store:

Apple allows 70% of revenues from the store to instantly go to the seller of the app, and 30% go to Apple.

Does that 30% of money make Apple also responsible for content and would that responsibility hold true for free Apps?
posted by edbles at 10:06 AM on November 10, 2009


I don't know why you see vitriol. None is intended and I frankly think you've got to be working pretty hard to see it.

Referring to other people in the discussion as "pigheaded" and dismissing others' comments as "strawmen" doesn't quite come across as cuddly-and-friendly, IMO.

However. I see above that someone else suggested the use of the term "corporate censorship" in this instance. THAT, I have no problem with (and never did), so I'm wondering if this entire discussion could have been avoided if we'd all categorized the term thus from the get-go.

I admit to perpetuating a part of that myself, I'll grant. However -- after the term "corporate censorship" was introduced, I'll gently point out that, in subsequent communication, you could have re-iterated the use of that qualifier, and I have a hunch things could have been defused sooner.

So -- we all got carried away, perhaps we can all take a deep breath and start discussing the ramifications of corporate censorship.

I mean, I still think it's less of a problem than government censorship, but at least now I know that Y'ALL conceive of it in a different fashion than government censorship. I think it was the insistence on using the one term for both that was making me think you equated the two.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:13 AM on November 10, 2009


I think this all depends on how you look at the App Store. No one has a problem with book publishers not publishing certain books as a free enterprise thing. But people don't see the (perhaps wrongly) App Store as a publisher. They see the App Store as "how I download things" as an interface or protocol.
I think the contention in this thread is that a portion of Apple's user community would like to see them not review apps for content. It is more about negotiating a change in the relationship between the user and the manufacturer. And less about saying OMG Apple is teh evils, this is a crime against humanity.

On preview seems like you got there.
posted by edbles at 10:16 AM on November 10, 2009


EmpressC: If Matt announced a new policy of deleting MeFi comments that are critical of political figures, wouldn't you consider that problematic? I suspect you would (as would most users of this site), even though MeFi is privately-owned and there are many alternative fora for political discussion on the internet and in the rest of the world.
posted by brain_drain at 10:18 AM on November 10, 2009


For the record, Edibles, someone did in fact Godwin the conversation early on, which I think prompted a lot of the eye-rolling, but the mods in their wisdom yanked that comment.

Which, considering what we're discussing, is an irony that amuses me the more I think about it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:19 AM on November 10, 2009


If Matt announced a new policy of deleting MeFi comments that are critical of political figures, wouldn't you consider that problematic? I suspect you would (as would most users of this site), even though MeFi is privately-owned and there are many alternative fora for political discussion on the internet and in the rest of the world.

I would, but I would handle that by simply leaving metafilter (after emailing the mods with a pithy statement explaining exactly why I was doing so). I wouldn't see the need to take any further action -- the more people leave Metafilter over a ruling like that, the more it would decay, and the whole thing would collapse and the Mods would get their commeupance that way.

Again, I think a lot of the ire here came from the back-and-forth about "THIS is censorship!" "no, THIS is!" To me, the insistance on the use of the term "censorship" for both made me think that OTHERS were thinking "there is no categorical difference between corporate censorship and government censorship". But I just noticed that earlier upthread, lodurr agreed with the suggestion to categorize this as "corporate censorship" for the sake of clarity, and if that's the case, then I truly have no complaint any more.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:24 AM on November 10, 2009


Ah. I had seen the reference, but was under the impression that the Godwinner hadn't provided the bulk of the meat on what people's issues were with the App Store.

So this is what's weird about Apple's decision to police content.

The Application Provider of each Third Party Product is solely responsible for that Third Party Product, the content therein, any warranties to the extent that such warranties have not been disclaimed, and any claims that you or any other party may have relating to that Third Party Product or your use of that Third Party Product. You acknowledge that you are purchasing the license to each Third Party Product from the Application Provider of that Third Party Product; Apple is acting as agent for the Application Provider in providing each such Third Party Product to you; Apple is not a party to the license between you and the Application Provider with respect to that Third Party Product; and Apple is not responsible for that Third Party Product, the content therein, or any warranties or claims that you or any other party may have relating to that Third Party Product or your use of that Third Party Product.

They clearly move all responsibility for the content of the application onto the third party developer. So what is motivating this policy?
posted by edbles at 10:28 AM on November 10, 2009


I truly have no complaint any more.

You have reached internet nirvana! :)
posted by brain_drain at 10:34 AM on November 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Referring to other people in the discussion as "pigheaded" and dismissing others' comments as "strawmen" doesn't quite come across as cuddly-and-friendly, IMO.

So, are you suggesting that we should never point out strawmen when we think we see them? Or that BP was not being 'pigheaded' in his insistence that we were all redefining the term 'censorship', and that he was being 'cuddly-and-friendly' when he said we were being 'manipulative and wrong' in choosing not to accept his definition of the word?

On Metafilter -- at least the one I've been on for the last seven years -- that's not vitriol, that's self-defense. And yes, the spec:log test does apply.

As long as we're stating for the record, I pointed out a bunch of times that tried actively to dial back the intensity of the debate by pointing out that (aside from one example) it was not a matter of people godwinizing the thread -- and also repeatedly made it clear that I understood this was not on a par with governmental censorship.

As far as how any of us would behave if this happened on metafilter: That's what MeTa's for. It hasn't done us wrong yet -- not really -- and that's because we can go there and ask the question and Matt or one of our hard-working mods will help us understand it. But that just illustrates what we can do here, and what people can't do (frankly for some practical reasons) with Apple.
posted by lodurr at 10:41 AM on November 10, 2009


i also bunch demonstrated command english syntax problematic be can times my.
posted by lodurr at 10:42 AM on November 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Lodurr: I think we all contributed to the escalation. For my part, I missed where you had earlier agreed to the use of "corporate censorship" for the sake of clarity, and I have no quarrel with that, so I have no complaint any more.

For the record, if you'd called my attention to that earlier than right now, I would have dropped this sooner, but to be fair, I also could have seen it sooner, and I think we all just let our passions get the better of us. And I apologize for my own part in that.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:44 AM on November 10, 2009


BP for his part seems to be projecting his Apple Defamation League protection shield around the term "censorship," immediately flagging us all as Apple-haters.

Whatever other broken English you throw around, let's be clear that the editorial vibe of this thread and that of most of its participants can be boiled down to:

1. I don't own an iPhone
2. I would never own an iPhone
3. Anyway, iPhones suck
4. And even if Apple published this joke app, I wouldn't have bought it or downloaded it, but Apple is as bad as NazisOMGAMIRITE

I'm simply identifying this as censorship.

It's not even that. Once again, ffs:

"Technically speaking, there is absolutely nothing stopping Richmond from releasing his source code for people to compile on their own, or reselling his application via Cydia's storefront, or reprogramming his application as a web app that is accessible through the Safari browser. Further, there's nothing at all stopping him from addressing Apple's concerns before he resubmits his application — which is a common tactic that many, many iPhone developers employ to resell their products through Apple's storefront...

Apple is not a government. Apple does not operate on behalf of a government. Apple does not have any kind of control over media to the extent that its decisions keep people from accessing public resources, such as contact information for politicians. Apple does not have a memory hole, down which contact info for politicians disappears. Apple does not control many of the alternative methods for accessing such data. Apple can't even control use of its own technology for accessing said data. Apple has absolutely no control over the wide ecosystem of cellphones from which said data can be accessed."


An app with the same functionality already exists on the store, if you need an app that tells you how to get in touch with your elected officials.

If you need a joke app, there are plenty of those, too.

If you need an app that does both, then if Apple is taking the legal risk from hosting it, where they open themselves up to costly and time-consuming lawsuits, then Apple may decide not to resell your product in their store.

So either address the issues of concern, go sell it on Cydia, or put it up on the web, or distribute the source code if you think your application is important enough that it needs to be on every iPhone. You can even put out your application through the Droid, at least until Verizon and Google decide against it.

If you're able to take your product to the public anyway, and if that is censorship, then the word "censorship" has absolutely no meaning any more. Congratulations on breaking an important part of the English language.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:47 AM on November 10, 2009


If you need an app that does both, then if Apple is taking the legal risk from hosting it, where they open themselves up to costly and time-consuming lawsuits, then Apple may decide not to resell your product in their store.

I am trying to imagine the lawsuits over such an app.

Apple is being cautious to the point of ridicule.

If you're able to take your product to the public anyway, and if that is censorship, then the word "censorship" has absolutely no meaning any more. Congratulations on breaking an important part of the English language.

Semantics are boring. I don't think you ever got the original point, however.
posted by krinklyfig at 12:22 PM on November 10, 2009


Semantics are boring. I don't think you ever got the original point, however.

I should note that I do development for the iPhone platform and that my position on this is informed by having to learn as much about the development and distribution process as I need to to get a project to market.

So I am sympathetic about concerns that Apple is heavy-handed about its approval process, because that process affects me, as well. Their approval staff do play their cards close to the chest. This makes it more difficult to develop for the platform, definitely, which is a problem for all developers.

But despite the difficulties, I also think, upon reviewing all the facts, that what is going on here is not censorship, which implies a very specific set of behaviors.

For Apple to successfully censor Richmond it would have had to limit a number of options on his part. I have listed several of those options in this thread. He is still, as far as any of us know, able to carry them out. Apple has not had this artist thrown into a gulag. Apple has not worked with the government to otherwise limit Richmond's options or issue punitive measures. He can still publish his work by any number of means, on the iPhone and elsewhere. Apple is not a monopoly and, as far as I know, not contractually bound to resell Richmond's work through its storefront.

If semantics is boring, the original point — namely that people who do not develop for the iPhone, who would not stoop to use one, being ignorant about the meanings and usage of well-understood words — is even more tedious (for Metafilter, at least, which usually digs up a thread like this every month or so).

If you want to criticize Apple, there's a lot to be genuinely critical about. Just be honest about it. Calling this censorship is dishonest and manipulative. It also marginalizes the genuine harm that real censorship causes around the world, by diluting the meaning of the word.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:16 PM on November 10, 2009


Just to step in for a second, a lot of my journalism classes involved the intractable "Is it censorship?" arguments.

There are some people, a former prof was one, who believe that censorship necessarily involves the government. He lectured thus every time the Top Ten Censored Stories list came out, arguing that because it was private news companies choosing not to run stories, it wasn't right to call them censored.

"Well, what if—" as he was also an opponent of ownership limits in media, "what if there isn't any other press carrying the story? That effectively cuts off all audience access in a market."

"There's always the internet," he'd say.

But the fragmentary nature of the internet that makes it so free to expression also means that it's difficult to reach a mass audience.

If you're really hung up on the word censorship, how about asking if this decision is just, fair or good? I'd say that it's none of those things.
posted by klangklangston at 4:10 PM on November 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


If you want to criticize Apple, there's a lot to be genuinely critical about. Just be honest about it. Calling this censorship is dishonest and manipulative.

Well, we differ in that opinion.
posted by krinklyfig at 11:47 AM on November 12, 2009


Oh, Nevermind.
posted by R. Mutt at 6:15 AM on November 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


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