Hi, please

Apple’s Anti-Porn Crusade: The Real Motive and Squashing the Weak

My title may have been somewhat misleading. Yes, I did do more secondary research on the real motive behind Apple’s banning of “overly sexual content”, but “squashing the weak” has more to do with the lack of response I have gotten from Apple.

The first thing I did was I went to the Developer Forum under Apple’s Support page. In the Apple’s developers support forum, I was unable to find any questions or discussion surrounding Apple’s banning of sexual content-related apps or any apps for that matter. I cannot say for sure, but I am leaning towards concluding that Apple may have removed these posts or discussions for the sake of making this matter more down-low and under-the-cover. I cannot imagine that nobody has asked a question regarding this matter. So I dug a little deeper. Let’s try to ask a question myself. Well, as soon as I tried to post something to the forum, I got to the “Apple Discussion User Agreement“. Typically, I would ignore something like this and just click agree and move on. But WAIT! Let’s read a bit deeper into what can be discussed on this forum. Under Section 2: Submission, Apple Discussions is here to help people use Apple products and technologies more effectively. Unless otherwise noted, do not add Submissions about nontechnical topics, including:…2. Discussions of Apple policies or procedures or speculation on Apple decisions.” In other words, I am not allowed to post anything or ask questions about why Apple is banning sexual apps from the App Store, or what the boundary is. It also states in the earlier part of the agreement that “Apple retains the right, but not the responsibility, to edit or remove any Submission, including those deemed by Apple to violate the Agreement.” In other words, what I thought previously was true. Even if a person was able to successfully post a question regarding Apple’s decision or policy without getting it banned, it WILL get erased by Apple.

Discouraged by running to one dead end, I decided to go Apple’s iPhone Dev Center. This really confused me. It seemed like the site was really for developers (as it should be) and included mostly technical information regarding coding and programming. I looked around for anything involving content restriction or what sort of content is allowed, but failed to find any information regarding this. So it seems that my second stop got me nowhere as well. Perhaps an information is hidden deeply in that pile of instructions and guidelines about programming, but it is so well hidden that I cannot actually reach for it. It’s almost like a hidden treasure.

So I thought let’s contact Apple directly. I went to Apple’s “Contact Us” page. There is no contact number or e-mail for developer’s or about App Store specifically. The only one that seemed even remotely close, was “U.S. iPhone technical support”. I called the number, but apparently you need to own an iPhone to get to talk to representative, because it told me to enter a case number or iPhone number.

Looking around blogsphere, I was able to find what the e-mail that bans an app looks like:

The App Store continues to evolve, and as such, we are constantly refining our guidelines. Your application, Wobble iBoobs (Premium Uncensored), contains content that we had originally believed to be suitable for distribution. However, we have recently received numerous complaints from our customers about this type of content, and have changed our guidelines appropriately.

We have decided to remove any overtly sexual content from the App Store, which includes your application.

Thank you for your understanding in this matter. If you believe you can make the necessary changes so that Wobble iBoobs (Premium Uncensored) complies with our recent changes, we encourage you to do so and resubmit for review.

Sincerely,
iPhone App Review

So this is not something that was set up “originally”, but only implemented and enforced recently. Actually what is more odd is that by digging around I was able to find out that Apple did ban such Apps in the beginning, but changed their stance and decided to be more open and flexible about such boundaries. This is very concerning because it doesn’t just show that Apple changed their decision on what they define as appropriate, but their definition can be flexible to best serve them.

So in conclusion, I ended up running in circles in my personal research to contact Apple directly or find something about from them. Meanwhile, after running into dead ends, I had my friend who actually works for a company that develops games for iPhone to contact Apple directly. I will include this information in my wrap-up post on Monday if I hear something back.

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8 Comments

  1. ElzbthMllr 16:46, Mar 5th, 10

    Sounds like you are frustrated and I don’t blame you! Have you ever read the book “The Future of the Internet and How to Stop It” by Jonathan Zittrain? http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0300124872?ie=UTF8&tag=jonatzittr-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=030012487. I kept thinking about this book when reading your posts the past few weeks because in the book Zittrain talks about how certain devices (including the iPhone) which are so worshiped by society are ones that can’t be modified by anyone except their vendors (eg Apple). He calls them “tethered appliances” and while there are many positive things that can come from these devices, Zittrain writes that the very nature of the Internet is its “generativity,” or innovative character, and that this is greatly at risk the more and more we use these devices. Anyway, I saw its topic matter as related to your research and your frustration at not getting answers.

    I haven’t really seen any mainstream news stories about this in the past week or so. It seems people will just let Apple do whatever it wants. Have you run into any other people doing research? Have developers whose apps have been banned been able to come together in some sort of process? Any idea how many apps have been banned?

  2. HoniehLayla 17:01, Mar 5th, 10

    Wow Dan I’m sorry to hear that. Corporate culture – everything is an autoreply.

    I was especially surprised by this statement:

    Discussions of Apple policies or procedures or speculation on Apple decisions.

    “Under Section 2: Submission, Apple Discussions is here to help people use Apple products and technologies more effectively. Unless otherwise noted, do not add Submissions about nontechnical topics, including:…2. Discussions of Apple policies or procedures or speculation on Apple decisions.”

    They don’t leave much room for people to ask “why.” I hope you are able to reach your apple contact and get some concrete answers.

    If you need an iPhone phone number let me know.

  3. Ryan 17:03, Mar 5th, 10

    Apple is on a power and ego trip. They can do what they want it seems… and yes, who will stop them. It seems like the only thing to do is to steal their patent technology and battle it out in court. They remind me of AT&T with the telephone patent monopoly until they were broken up by the JD in the 70s’/80s’ I believe with the anti-trust case.

    Maybe HTC will win – http://finance.yahoo.com/tech-ticker/apple-sues-htc-for-stealing-iphone-technology-432861.html?tickers=AAPL,NOK,EK,T,XLK,QQQQ

    In addition, Leslie’s post about how Sony is trying to compete with Apple made me think of how protective Apple is and how also, smart they are in taking hold of the market e.g. iPod, iPhone, iMac, and ieverything else.

  4. Leslie 17:56, Mar 5th, 10

    As Ryan said, I’d definitely say Apple is being protective of their property. And, can you blame them? It is technically a store, even though it’s in a digital space. And, they have a right to decide what is sold in their store. If they let everyone create apps to any degree they wanted, with the ease that it takes to create them, I’m sure the store could very quickly be overrun by these “porn” apps, and those apps could become even more explicit than they already are. So, if Apple doesn’t want to become a store that sells these types of apps, then they do need to start regulating to some degree. They know that big corporate companies like Sports Illustrated won’t go over the top like indie developers do because those corporate companies have an image to protect, as well (and I’m sure they also have special business relations with these companies…this motive should not be ignored).

    I’m sorry to hear that you had trouble contacting Apple, though! They can be a difficult company to deal with sometimes. While they put up a nice “image” in their store with the Genius Bar section, I feel like they are also quick to put up a wall between them and the consumer sometimes. I’ve had a couple interactions with them concerning fixing my computer that have left me frustrated.

  5. nadine 20:20, Mar 5th, 10

    What secrecy, really disappointing!
    It is interesting to see how Apple has changed its policy. As the app’s intellectual property belongs to them, they are free to do whatever they want- even if you already have downloaded the app to your iPhone, and agreed to terms and conditions…It reminds me of the Kindle controversy. Last July, Amazon removed George Orwell’s book 1984 from Kindle. They accessed all Kindles, and deleted the book without notice. When readers opened their Kindle to continue reading the book, they simply couldn’t find it anymore…

  6. nadine 10:16, Mar 6th, 10

    More arbitrary removals of iPhone apps
    http://news.cnet.com/8301-13579_3-10464021-37.html

  7. Harris 04:30, Mar 7th, 10

    Time carried a detailed piece on the rise of iPhone porn in June 2008. http://is.gd/9SgCu Although a little outdated, it does give a good idea of what led Apple to have made the decision.

    Re Leslie, I agree that the ease of creating these applications could mean the store would be taken over by very lucrative pornography business (as implied in the Time article), but I also think Wobble iBoobs was a sophisticated and intelligent piece of software.
    I believe the real question is, how exactly do they determine what is allowed and what is not? I don’t think they can leave it to the whims of the staff. There have to be guidelines. Does anyone know anyone who works with Apple?
    Let’s try doing some reporting here and see if someone’s ready to give the guidelines away “on condition of anonymity” :)

  8. Alexandra 10:17, Mar 8th, 10

    I agree with Leslie on this. Apple can decide what they do and don’t want to sell in their store. Do they really want their name associated with porn? It’s a proprietary device and a proprietary store so I think they do get to make whatever rules they want, and they also get to change them whenever they want. I am not really offended that they changed their rules and don’t want to talk about why – I think the fact that they don’t want porn sold in their store is reason enough.

    @Harris – have you used Wobble iBoobs? I can’t tell if you’re kidding or serious. What did the app do? From the title it sounds pretty ridiculous, but I have never seen or used it so I don’t know.