Astute—or at least awake—media critics and journalists have been warning about Apple’s heavy-handed approach to “acceptable” apps in the company’s iTunes store for quite some time. The walled garden just won’t fly anymore. Apple recently went on a puritanical rejection spree, rejecting more than 5,000 apps that were deemed “objectionable.” These apps, it’s important to note, were not pornographic. To make matters worse, Apple accepted similar material from corporate publishers like Playboy.
But now Apple has irrevocably stepped over the censorship line, by removing Stern‘s—a German corporate weekly—app without notice. Stern had offended Apple’s sensibilities when it published a section on erotic photography.
But that’s not all. German corporate daily Bild also aroused Apple’s censors with a naked woman in the PDF version of the printed newspaper. Spiegel Online has the story of Apple’s “moral police” and “purity law.”
So, is it naked people that Apple has a problem with, or Germans?
When Apple’s arbitrary and inconsistent censorship is combined with Apple’s ridiculous iPhone Developer Program License Agreement (.pdf 684KB) unearthed by a Freedom of Information Act request (NASA released an app) by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and the company’s past attempts at censorship, it’s reasonable to ask what publication restrictions Apple’s going to implement next.
This is intolerable. I’ll continue to use Mac laptops because Apple can’t control what applications I can run or what media I can view. If I was on the fence about buying an iPad, Apple’s ham-handedness certainly resolves the issue.
Donata Hopfen, Bild Digital’s chief executive, told Gizmodo’s Jesus Diaz, “Today they censor nipples, tomorrow editorial content.” Diaz notes that the Association of German Magazine Publishers has asked the International Federation of the Periodical Press to make a complaint against Apple. That’s a good first step, but it’s not nearly enough. Apple should be allowed to carry whatever apps it likes in its iTunes store. But absolutely not if the company is allowed to restrict app and publication sales exclusively to its iTunes store. The solution is simple: Legally forbid Apple from restricting where app developers and publishers are allowed to sell their wares.