Dictionary censoring: Apple's gone too far
August 05, 2009
Look, we love Apple’s products, particularly the iPhone and the great achievements that Apple has wrought with the AppStore. And though we anticipated some problems with an AT&T/Apple-controlled app market, in which either company could brazenly ban an application for seemingly no reason, we’ve mostly been happy with the freedom that iPhone developers have had. Sure, there was the occasional story about a tethering application pulled from the AppStore, or apps being pulled that “duplicated” the functionality of the core iPhone apps, but even these grievances were (questionably) reasonable. Yet if a slippery slope is to be found anywhere, it’s beneath the feet of the app reviewers at Apple, whose rejections border on the comical. So it is for the Ninjawords application, in which a dictionary required censoring before it could be sold in the AppStore. Indeed, an article at the Onion could be no more amusing, but as this is real, it must similarly be true that the app store reviewers are either members of the religious right (whose hypocrisy is clearly prevalent, since some of the banned words appear in the bible itself), else are teenage twits who want nothing more than to strike a nerve with developers, as they somehow delight in creating ridiculous, unecessary drama.
Sure, the AppStore is no T-Mobile Sidekick marketplace, where nearly every good application is never approved for users to download (and if they are, rarely free). But come on, Apple, this behavior is inexcusable. It’s not even that the Ninjawords rejection is based on any semblance of reality: common sense alone should dictate the application’s publication. To even think about designating a dictionary as a mature product (even after the censoring) is preposterous, considering that dictionaries reside in nearly every home, classroom, and library in America. This is a case of bullying for the sake of bullying and nothing else; Apple isn’t protecting children, customers, or anyone else with these kinds of application rejections. If anything, Apple is simply driving some developers away from the AppStore, where they’ll probably just adopt a different platform instead. That may not be troublesome to Apple now, what with the iPhone’s tremendous following, but why accelerate momentum to the contrary, even if that momentum is small?
It would be quite insightful to discover what kind of guidance AppStore reviewers get from higher-ups, and what kind of training these reviewers get in the first place. Because right now, we think most high-school interns would do a better job.