Danish Newspaper Protest Apple App Store Censorship

| Analysis

Ekstra Bladet, a newspaper in Denmark, has had it up to here with Apple’s App Store policies, and the publication has published a series of protest articles on the subject, including the political cartoon below. According to the newspaper, Apple rejected its iPhone and iPad apps because of a nude photo feature, even for the Danish-specific version of the App Store.

In an editorial titled “Double standards in Apple’s Disneyland,” Heine Jørgensen wrote for the newspaper (from a Google translation, and mind the mild profanity), “Steve Jobs, who privately is Disney’s largest shareholder, is the closest you get to a god in the engineering world. And just like God, he tries to restrict anything that resembles criticism or incorrect content in the apparatus [from which] he earns billions of dollars. So long as the customers just uncritically pays shit Apple at rest.”

(There’s much more below the image, if you’ll pardon the opportunity for pun).

Ekstra Bladet Political Cartoon

Ekstra Bladet Protest Political Cartoon

The Heart of the Matter

At issue, according to the newspaper, is Ekstra Bladet’s Page 9 Girl, a nudie photo feature the company has been publishing since 1976. EB said that Apple refused to allow its newspaper app unless the company removed the Page 9 Girl, and EB refused, leading to the company using its editorial pages to attack Apple for its decision, and accuse it of using double standards.

In another piece titled, “We do not need an American nanny,” Mr. Jørgensen wrote, “Page 9-girl is not an American or a British pinup model that peeks out from behind a pound of makeup. She is the neighbor’s beautiful daughter. An innocent Danish institution on par with The Little Mermaid. No Dane has ever gotten the strange idea that Page 9-girl would be banned. But now, narrow-minded, American tasters from computer giant Apple tittet with through the keyhole, and decided that the sweet Danish girl is offensive - for the Danes in Denmark.”

The source of the double standard complaint is The Sun, the English tabloid that features the Page 3 Girl (Warning: Following the link and clicking on the links there will result in porn) a long running nudie pic feature at the News Corp publication. EB argued that The Sun for iPad is available in the App Store, and that Apple is being hypocritical by not allowing EB’s iPad or iPhone apps.

From the same Google translation of the Disneyland editorial (with more of that lack of American prudishness, so continue to read with care), “In England published The Sun - which is quite similar to Ekstra Bladet - each day at Apple with a girl like ours. Only difference is that she is on page 3 - and has bigger tits!”

The Sun’s Web app (the newspaper presented for mobile device consumption) is also available for iPhone, and is promoted on Apple’s own Web site, though it is specifically lacking the Page 3 feature — you have to visit the non mobile version with the link above to access the girlie pics, or you could just go straight to Page3.com, News Corp’s dedicated commercial Web site for its feature, a site not promoted by Apple but easily accessible on the iPhone or iPad.

To Pay or Not to Pay

The difference here is likely to be the pay/free issue. PaidContent reported earlier this year that News Corp was able to get the app approved because it’s a paid app that requires users to sign off on being 17 or older before it can be downloaded — The Sun’s iPhone Web app is currently freely accessible through a browser on your iPhone.

That could be at the heart of what EB characterizes as Apple’s double standards, but as with the controversy over the anti-gay and anti-abortion app The Manhattan Declaration, Apple is putting itself in the role of arbiter for societal standards of decency.

In trying to protect the Walled Garden, Apple will of necessity offend someone, often. The more popular the iOS platform becomes, the more opportunity Apple has to offend ever larger groups of someones.

The Manhattan Declaration controversy is an almost uniquely American issue, however, whereas EB’s Page 9 Girl (or The Sun’s Page 3 Girl, for that matter) are issues specific to another country’s culture. Apple treads even trickier ground by trying to enforce its own definition of what porn is in cultures where nudity is viewed differently, in countries where EB and The Sun are merely one of the mainstream dailies available on the street (even if they are tabloids).

Porn Watchdog

Should Apple be the anti-porn watchdog on iOS devices in every country where it maintains an App Store? That’s a subjective question, so we’ll counter our own question with a different one: Can Apple be the anti-porn watchdog in every country where it maintains an App Store?

In addition to the risk of miffing off customers and potential customers put off by what many will see as American prudishness or perhaps ham fisted corporate censorship, the company is likely to find itself running afoul of various and sundry government watchdog agencies, especially in Europe.

The reality is that this is bound to be the case with the Walled Garden approach to the App Store. By ensuring that apps run well, are not malicious, and are of high quality, Apple must approve each app. By approving every app, the company is effectively responsible for the content of the app, which Apple seems to have taken to heart.

And that is what leads to these countless controversies. In trying to protect the Walled Garden, Apple will of necessity offend someone, often. The more popular the iOS platform becomes, the more opportunity Apple has to offend ever larger groups of someones.

The company has so far shown at least some degree of flexibility on these policies, and has reversed plenty of App Store approvals or rejections in the face of common sense or common protest (or sometimes just protest). Apple most recently published loose guidelines for developers so that they can have a better understanding of what the App Store is looking for, an uncommon bit of semi-openness for the company.

Those guidelines make the most sense for the American App Store, where, for instance, the decision to keep porn off the App Store isn’t likely to raise many eyebrows at all. They do not, however, do a thing to address whether Apple should try to export its social mores to other markets, especially when it comes to prohibiting mainstream newspapers on foreign shores from having apps.

In The States, Apple is free to allow or disallow what it wants. No one is forced to buy an iPhone, after all, and if they don’t like Apple’s level of control, consumers are free to go elsewhere. In Europe, however, Apple’s rights as a corporation are not as clear as they are in this country, and these kinds of decisions by the Cupertino company are quite likely to eventually lead to all manner of investigations and government prodding.

Thanks to Philip Elmer-DeWitt at Fortune for the heads up on this issue.

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Comments

Intruder

I think Apple is quite wrong in this instance.

dhp

A simple photo of a nude person is not pornography.

ziploc

Mr. J?rgensen wrote, ?Page 9-girl is not an American or a British pinup model that peeks out from behind a pound of makeup. She is the neighbor?s beautiful daughter. An innocent Danish institution on par with The Little Mermaid.

In England published The Sun - which is quite similar to Ekstra Bladet - each day at Apple with a girl like ours. Only difference is that she is on page 3 - and has bigger tits!

These statements are hilariously inaccurate, just check out their Page 9 Girls, not quite what they claim.  WARNING: NSFW

geoduck

Apple could defuse this simply by having an “adult” section to the App Store. Make every effort (separate authentication etc) to keep kidlets out and let people post their soft core stuff there.

firestorm

If Denmark wants nude and/or porn images, they are free to start their own company and app store.

Lee Dronick

Apple could defuse this simply by having an ?adult? section to the App Store. Make every effort (separate authentication etc) to keep kidlets out and let people post their soft core stuff there.

I second that.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

There’s something rotten in Cupertino.

@ziploc: Having spent a little time in Denmark, I would say that J?rgensen’s quote is more accurate than you might otherwise imagine.

captainulf

I’m Danish and I really wanted to chime in on this one. But I just cannot work up the steam to rage against EkstraBladet for the sleazy tabloid newspaper that it is.

The classifieds section of Ekstra Bladet is the place to look for adverts for prostitution. Legal as well as illegal. And everything they say about free speech in relation to pornography is tainted by that fact in my opinion.

Heine J?rgensen better not be oggling my daughter (that is if I had one)

jimstead

Apple is the arbiter of their own platform. There’s no shortage of places for people to post what they want. Every single forum doesn’t need to be rife with it.

jfbiii

Apple is putting itself in the role of arbiter for societal standards of decency.

No, Apple is putting itself in the role of a store owner that autonomously decides what they would and would not like to sell. Big difference.

EB loses big-time credibility when they point to a peer app that has been approved (but WITHOUT the naked photo section) and complain about a double standard where there apparently isn’t one. Lastly, this isn’t censorship. Apple isn’t stopping the publication of this paper, or production of this app, or display of the nudity on their devices.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

Speaking of banning stuff… Fake Steve Jobs weighed in on the Manhattan Declaration app. Dan Lyons’ finest work to date, an absolutely epic troll.

Bryan Chaffin

EB loses big-time credibility when they point to a peer app that has been approved (but WITHOUT the naked photo section) and complain about a double standard where there apparently isn?t one.

As noted in the story, The Sun for iPad does offer its Page 3 Girls under explicit agreement from Apple that users must sign off on being of age.

Just wanted to make sure you saw that. smile

Nemo

I think that Apple’s censorship of Ekstra Bladet’s (EB) erotic content and Apple’s censorship of the Manhattan Declaration App (Manhattan App) are two different things.  Apple is right on the first and wrong on the second.  If EB wants to get its Page 9 girl before users of Apple’s iOS devices and certain users want to view that content, Apple provides a way:  Either you present your app as a for-pay app, where Apple can be fairly certain that the person viewing the app is of the age of majority or has the permission of a parent or guardian, because they have a credit card, or you offer the app for free and use a link to open Safari and go to the erotic content on the Web.  That EB isn’t taking either of those courses indicates that what it is really after isn’t protecting the ability of its readers to view erotic content, but forcing Apple to open its App Store, at least in Denmark, to content that conforms with EB’s view of what Apple should permit on the App Store.  Well, since EB can take either of the options described, supra, it can present its content, including its erotic content, to its readers, without any undue hindrance, and thus, has no basis for objecting to Apple’s censorship.

However, the Manhattan App is different because it isn’t an erotic picture or video; it is political speech on a controversial issue, and as such, it deserves greater protection and should not be hindered in anyway in reaching users of iOS devices, unless it was uncivil and/or facially devoid of reason in its presentation, which it is not.  Banning the Manhattan App from the App Store excludes its message completely, as Apple hasn’t even offered the Manhattan App the option of linking to the Web.  But even that option would be insufficient, where, as here, the effect of outright banning the Manhattan App or of even requiring a web link either bans or, in the case of requiring a link, hinders the presentation of civil and reasonable political speech for no apparent reason other than that Apple doesn’t like the content of that speech.

If Apple wants to hinder the presentation of erotic content on its App Store in ways that are highly likely to restrict that content to adults or to minors who have a parent or guardian’s permission to view that content, that’s okay.  But telling people what civilly presented ideas that they may be exposed to or hindering the presentation of those ideas by forcing an iOS user to go to the web to view them is inconsistent with the values of any free and democratic society, whether it be Bible-Belt Alabama or anything goes Copenhagen.  Erotic content may be regulated so that it is restricted to adults, but civilly presented political speech should never be so restricted.

jfbiii

Bryan, the way that sentence reads in the story above is: “The Sun?s Web app (the newspaper presented for mobile device consumption) is also available for iPhone, and is promoted on Apple?s own Web site, though it is specifically lacking the Page 3 feature.”

So the actual web app does or does NOT include the Page 3 feature? Because the way I read the story it implies that the app itself does not.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

Nemo, as Bryan noted above, Apple has approved an iPad app which includes naked boobies. Click through this link to see a redacted screenshot of The Sun app.

http://paidcontent.co.uk/image/set/the-suns-ipad-edition/P11/

So, we definitely have a double standard here. The only other disagreement I have with you above is that these kinds of photos are “erotic”. Your choice of words seems precise, so I think we can both agree that they aren’t “pornography” and that even the looser Internet word “porn” is a bit of overkill for calendar-style nudity. And in context, that’s what this really is. If a beefcake calendar is “softer” than say Playgirl among women in the United States, this calendar-style nudity is less scandalous in London and Copenhagen than a beefcake calendar in a local mall kiosk here.

And isn’t the creative use of wording essentially what Apple is relying on to ban the Manhattan Declaration app. Bryan again links to his article about it with the word “anti-gay”. Discussion is over, right? To me, it’s really the same problem and puts Apple in a role it shouldn’t have wanted, and I would guess from the increasing divisiveness of examples, will not be able to sustain.

Nemo

Dear Bosco:  As I tried to explain, supra, Apple is not applying a double standard if it only permits erotic content for paid apps or requires that any erotic content be presented on the Web.  A paid app requires and an Apple account and a credit card, which either means that your are an adult or you have an adult’s permission to use that adult’s credit card.  Either way a minor would not get access to erotic content or not get access to that content without an adult having the ability to say no. 

As I understand the facts, Ekstra Bladet (EB) is different, because its erotic content is in a free app which would be readily available to anyone on the App Store, whether they are a minor or not.  That is a very different thing, and so a different standard applies on the App Store.  For an app with erotic content, Apple requires EB to either present its erotic content in a paid app or in a free app with reference to a link where the erotic content can be found on the web.  Only if Apple had banned EB’s erotic content, after it had taken either of those options of a paid app or of giving user a link to erotic content on the Web, would we have Apple applying a double standard.  But that is not the case, so there is no double standard, and EB has the ability to present its erotic content to its viewers, if that is its true objective, rather than an ulterior objective.

As for pornography, the U.S. Supreme Court has never successfully been able to define pornography as a category, unless you think “community standards” is a reliable legal definition, which I don’t, so I try to avoid using it as standard.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

I don’t know that we’ve established that free/pay is the issue. Bryan speculated on it. Perhaps an inquiry could be made to the publisher. Most Danes speak really good English grin.

Nemo

Bosco:  Well, I know that Sun’s app is a paid app.  In fact, the story that you cite to says that Sun’s App is a paid app and that Sun got around the App Store’s restriction on erotic content by being a paid app.  While that raises the inference that EB’s app was a free app, we do need to know definitively whether EB offered a free or paid app.

Nemo

Of course, the problem is that since EB’s app never made it to the App Store, the only way to discover whether it was free or paid is to see what app EB submitted.  And that isn’t likely to come from Apple.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

From what I’ve read, they are taking this to EC commissioners, so perhaps there is a filing.

Nemo

I just went to EB’s website for its paper.  The website is completely free and is pretty explicit in its erotic imagery.  I feel pretty confident in saying that certainly most American parents would not want their minor children having unfettered access to EB’s website, nor would first and secondary schools want their students downloading this stuff on their iOS devices, unless it were a high school class in sex education, which I believe requires parental consent in the few places in America where it is taught. 

See http://ekstrabladet.dk/sex_og_samliv/article1461934.ece

Nemo

Well, Bosco, the Commissioners will be taking quite a bold step, if it requires Apple to make this kind of content (http://ekstrabladet.dk/sex_og_samliv/article1461934.ece) freely available on its App Store, even if only on the Danish App Store.  The EU is not a monolith represented by Denmark.  Included in the EU are the conservative Irish Republic, Greece, Poland, et al.  And the problem that EB will have with its argument is that its content can be available on the App Store, provided that EB presents is as a paid app or contents itself by providing a link to the erotic content on the Web.  For explicit erotic content of the type, supra, that seems to me to be both a reasonable regulation and a reasonable compromise.

Lee Dronick

I just went to EB?s website for its paper.? The website is completely free and is pretty explicit in its erotic imagery.

I just went to using Safari on my iPhone. Yes, there is nudity, I would call the cleavage I saw Silicon Valley. They do have a mobile version.

Nemo

There is more than just nudity:  There are completely nude men and women, and there are image of men in positions where they appear to be penetrating the women, and the couples appear to be having sex.  And that was just the straight images.

Bryan Chaffin

So the actual web app does or does NOT include the Page 3 feature? Because the way I read the story it implies that the app itself does not.

There’s the Web app, which does not include Page 3.  There’s The Sun for iPad, the app actually discussed by EB, which does.

Lee Dronick

I didn’t “poke” around the site much Nemo, I was more interested in seeing if I could access it via an iPhone.

mactoid

Apple includes an app with EVERY iOS device that can provide all the pornography a chronic fapper could EVER want!

It’s called “Safari”

Get over it!

daddy

Danish Newspaper Protest Apple App Store Censorship

Um, something’s wrong grammatically with that headline.  Sort of like French car protest high gas price.  If several newspapers protest, then it works.  If one newspaper protests, that works.  Are you rationing your S marks today?

jindabyne

Thank

I adore your website - nice job!

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