Politician Accuses Apple of Liberal Political Agenda in App Store Approvals

| The Back Page

Apple has rejected a political candidate’s iPhone app, and that candidate is crying foul. On May 15th, Ari David, a republican running for the House of Representatives in the 30th District of California, a seat currently occupied by Democrat Henry Waxman, said in a blog post that Apple had rejected his app because it violated the company’s policy against apps with defamatory content. On Monday, Mr. David followed up with another blog post that accuses of Apple of pursuing a liberal political agenda in its App Store approval process.

The app that was rejected listed several political actions, votes, and positions of Rep. Waxman in an opinionated fashion. For instance, “VOTED TO CUT Medicare spending by a half a trillion dollars which would severely hurt seniors. Time to go Henry!” and, “TRIED TO STRANGLE family farms with insane Soviet-Style regulation.” (You can find more examples and information in Mr. David’s blog post.)

Dictionary.com defines “defamatory” as, “containing defamation; injurious to reputation; slanderous or libelous.” Whether or not Mr. David’s app fits that description is up to you — and Apple — to decide, but the latter apparently decided that it did.

Mr. David, frustrated at the wasted development dollars that went into his app, accused Apple of pursuing a political agenda, writing, “Clearly people who work at Apple are likely to be the kind of creative people that may tend to vote Democrat and hold liberal views but this goes far beyond that. This experience with Apple clearly shows that there is a political agenda going on within the culture of the company and business decisions are subject to Apple’s political views.”

That initial blog post didn’t get a whole lot of media attention, but today Mr. David followed it up with another blog post unveiling research done by assistants that he believes further demonstrates Apple’s liberal bias in its App Store approval process.

To wit, Apple allows BibleThumper, an app that helps atheists counter Christians with quotes from the Bible, but rejected an app called I-Slam that criticized the Quran. Apple also permitted iChe, an app “dedicated to Ernesto Che Guevara,” whom some view as a revolutionary hero and others as a “murderous thug,” to use Mr. David’s language.

Mr. David’s conclusion is that, “If you are a lefty, a commie, a radical muslim, an enviro-statist greenie or a Democrat party candidate with socialist/statist leanings that you wish to share far and wide, then have at it and create something for the itunes app store. But if you are a conservative who possesses dangerous notions like you love America, worship a just and forgiving God or are in support of our troops when they go to war against the enemies of free people, Apple says you need not apply [with one big sic for all the grammar mistakes and typos].”

Apple has put itself into what could become an increasingly difficult position as gatekeeper of not only decency, but political speech. In the contentious election cycle we are entering, this is sure to draw the fire of anyone and everyone in the political sphere who has their app rejected.

With Apple CEO Steve Jobs having expressed his support for Democratic candidates in the past and former Democratic Vice President Al Gore is on Apple’s board of directors, the company is open to attacks from the right any time it rejects a conservative-leaning app. That may not matter a hill of beans one way or another in the long run, but it’s also possible that such criticisms could result in Apple alienating some customers.

I can understand where Steve Jobs is coming from when it comes to porn-related apps, even if I disagree the position is necessary (if you want porn on your iPhone, there’s still that thing called the Internet, as long as you don’t want Flash), but being the gatekeeper for political content isn’t likely to leave anyone satisfied.

This isn’t the first time Apple has rejected a political app, of course, but the iPhone and the App Store are much bigger and more established than they were during the 2008 election cycle. More politicians are likely to see the iPhone as another important way to reach voters going forward. That will mean more political apps, which will in turn mean more rejections.

And imagine the free press you can bring to your campaign by complaining about an Apple rejection.

Comments

Tiger

here’s the solution….reject them all. PLEASE!!!!

They’re not apps. They’re propaganda. Get out of the business of gatekeeper and spare your customers not only the propaganda, but the headache of endless debate that will consume the internet over this silly issue. Just eliminate them all.

Lee Dronick

I think he screwed it up. I just did a quick check at the App Store and there are a lot GOP/Republican apps as well Conservative news apps. I did not find any apps for a particular candidate, but I only checked a few big names that I know are running.

As to an Atheist app there also a lot of Bible apps, some of the Koran and Torah. Not to mention a lot Christianity and Evangelism apps. Probably more Christian related apps than Atheist.

computerbandgeek

Just in case there were any doubts that what Apple is doing is BLATANT CENSORSHIP, they gave us this nice example.

When google.cn considered censoring political statements, everyone here came screaming in support of anti-censorship. But as soon as Apple does it, people say things like “CENSOR THEM ALL, PLEASE!”.

I may disagree with everything that comes out of every orifice of Ari David, but for goodness sakes, I don’t need Apple “protecting” me from him.

ppartekim

Mr. David?s conclusion is that, ?If you are a lefty, a commie, a radical muslim, ....

And being an left-handed individual I take offense at his term of the work “lefty” and being lumped into that group.

And yes there are people do think that way.

I Agree

I agree.  This is propaganda, not legitimate disagreement. “TRIED TO STRANGLE…”  Come on.  A little hyperbolic.

computerbandgeek

I agree.? This is propaganda, not legitimate disagreement. ?TRIED TO STRANGLE??? Come on.? A little hyperbolic.

I think we all agree on that. But nonetheless, censoring what he has to say is still CENSORSHIP. There is no reason for you to have to download it, and there’s no way in hell that I would, but who are we to stop him from distributing his app to the people who want it?

Modena

Hmmm. I’m left-handed but right-leaning, black but conservative, and in business but use Macs. And I don’t have dubs but drive a V-dub. I am contradiction.

Lee Dronick

And being an left-handed individual I take offense at his term of the work ?lefty? and being lumped into that group.

I am also left handed though okay with being called a “lefty,” but I hate it when someone calls me a “south paw.”

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

Perhaps it was the section of the app where they portrayed Waxman as a member of the rat family?

ozman

@Computerbandgeek who responded to

I agree. This is propaganda, not legitimate disagreement….

I think we all agree on that. But nonetheless, censoring what he has to say is still CENSORSHIP. There is no reason for you to have to download it, and there?s no way in hell that I would, but who are we to stop him from distributing his app to the people who want it?

He has the right to distribute his app in any way that he can.

But he does NOT have the right to force Apple to sell an app for him.

As a shopkeeper, Apple has the right to choose not to sell his app, and it has the right to do so without even providing a reason!

So maybe a better question would be the following: Who is HE to think that HIS product should not be scrutinized by shopkeepers before they decide to help him distribute it?

mike3k

I’m a liberal Northern Democrat and I agree with Apple on this one.

xmattingly

Republican is a proper noun, which was written as lower case in your first paragraph. Have you exposed your own political slant?

Ari David’s language is certainly inflammatory, but - as he points out in the article you cited - it is NOT defamatory by legal definition, if facts can be referenced.

This is not my particular taste in politic-speak, but hey - they all do it. I recall Obama declaring Hillary “not cut out” for the big seat, then after winning the nomination he turns around and appoints her Secretary of State. And there wasn’t anything factual about his claim, either.

Politicians will use certain language as they see fit, as a means to an end. Ari David would have done well to point out any Democrat apps that contain inflammatory material; irregardless, as far as I’m concerned Apple slipped on a banana peel here.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

He has the right to distribute his app in any way that he can.

You are incorrect. By license and by code signing restrictions, he does not have the right to distribute his iPhone app in any way that he can.

If he could, then there would be no contention over app approvals.

computerbandgeek

and I agree with Apple on this one.

Why? I’m curious.

ozman

@bosco
You said

You are incorrect.

regarding my statement that

He has the right to distribute his app in any way that he can.

You have interpreted the phrase “in any way he can” far too loosely.

My point is that he has the right to distribute in ways that are available to him, which is what the phrase “in any way he can” usually means. If he’s restricted legally from doing so in a particular way, then clearly that’s not one of the ways in which “he can” since it’s not a way this is available to him.

Interestingly enough, free speech is a right. But the right of “free speech” does not confer the right to trample other people’s rights. For example, he may have the right to describe his views on paper and distribute the resulting pamphlets but he clearly doesn’t have the right to break into my house and leave them there.

Freedom of speech does not guarantee a particular method of presentation.

ozman

I wrote

Freedom of speech does not guarantee a particular method of presentation.

Correction: Freedom of speech does not guarantee every method of presentation.

Peter

He has the right to distribute his app in any way that he can.  But he does NOT have the right to force Apple to sell an app for him.

The problem with this theory is that there is no other way to distribute an App except through the App Store.

Many are saying that Apps are the new Internet—why use Yelp.com when you can use the Yelp App?  While I’m not sure I agree with this theory, if we give it credence we have to accept that Apple is the gatekeeper to content and that is unacceptable.

I agree with the position that it’s Apple’s Store and they can say what they will and won’t sell.  However, there needs to be a legitimate other way of installing software on the iPhone besides the App Store.

Lee Dronick

I am thinking that if he had an app that was just a news feed for his blog he would have been approved. There are such apps for Glenn Beck and Rachel Maddow which pretty much covers the political spectrum.

Tiger

Right to expression is first, not guaranteed. It’s protected, but not guaranteed.

Right to force distribution on the other hand does NOT exist. Any candidate can get his or her message out there in 2010 through the Internet, purchased ads in news papers (if the publisher accepts it, again not a guaranteed right if the publisher chooses to not publish any).

Apps as the new Internet? That’s putting the cart back in front of the horse.

And Correction again: Freedom of speech does not guarantee ANY method of presentation.

dhp

Apple is damned if they do and damned if they don’t: Reject apps with conservative viewpoints and get right wingers in a tizzy; approve apps that express conservative political ideas and get more complaints about having too many fart apps.

ozman

@Peter
You wrote regarding

He has the right to distribute his app in any way that he can.  But he does NOT have the right to force Apple to sell an app for him.

The problem with this theory is that there is no other way to distribute an App except through the App Store.

The fact is that anyone who develops an iPhone app for Apple’s app store does so with full knowledge in advance that it can only be distributed via Apple’s mechanism and yet still chooses to do so. Here there is no violation of that person’s right to distribute in “any way he can” because the one and only route that was available (by his own understanding at the outset) remains available. At the same time, Apple is not legally required to provide multiple avenues of distribution. So what I stated before is not theory; it’s fact.

Many are saying that Apps are the new Internet?why use Yelp.com when you can use the Yelp App?  While I?m not sure I agree with this theory, if we give it credence we have to accept that Apple is the gatekeeper to content and that is unacceptable.

Agreed. But you can’t give this idea credence. Looking at Apple specifically, bear in mind that the internet is still accessible through any of several browsers that may be installed on the iPhone. Also, unless they’ve changed their policy, web apps continue to be supported and have been supported from day one. So it does not seem that Apple desires to be the gatekeeper to internet content. Instead, it seems that they simply don’t want to be involved in actively promoting (i.e., through THEIR app store) anything that doesn’t meet there criteria for providing a “good” user experience. And, naturally, those criteria are evolving because it would be impossible for them to anticipate every app in advance.

Eclipse

I find it interesting how quickly people who support a private businesses right to discriminate against anyone for any reason are immediately upset when they are “discriminated” against by a private business.

This isn’t censorship in a Constitutional sense.  The First Amendment prohibits the government from abridging Mr. David’s freedom of speech.  It says nothing about Apple or any other “citizen” abridging his expression. 

Citizens United gave corporations the right to politically spend what they want where they want.  If Apple truly had a leftist agenda, they could subsidize the purchase of Democratic candidates Aps with donations to the candidates PAC.

I am also of the opinion that all political Aps are propaganda.  Other than push notifications (which can be emulated with email), what do they offer that isn’t available on the candidates website?  I agree reject them all.

xmattingly

I find it interesting how quickly people who support a private businesses right to discriminate against anyone for any reason are immediately upset when they are ?discriminated? against by a private business.

I am behind that point of view to the degree that Rand Paul is as well. However, I think it’s also fair to assume that Apple would - and should - have parity among their developers. The best way for that Ari character to make his case would be to demonstrate that there is/are Democrat(s) with Apps in the store that are there for their politics, and to talk smack about their opponents as well.

I am also of the opinion that all political Aps are propaganda.

Uh, no - you’re off your nut on this one. One of my favorite apps (and the only political app I have) is something called My Gov. It’s simply a database of all the Congressmen, Senators, their voting records, and pertinent information. Not propaganda in the least.

Sam

Apple is a corporation.  Haven’t I been hearing from Republicans for years that companies should be allowed to do whatever they want with their products, and that the market will decide?  Aren’t Republicans vehemently against equal-time laws as well?  Just because there’s a handful of companies that aren’t owned by Republicans it doesn’t mean the world is out to get you.

farmboy

I’m a deep center-fielder (hate both parties basically), but the Republicans are just insane with their hyperbolic rhetoric the last few years, and usually completely bereft of logic and facts. It’s like their only path is to go nuclear on every single view. Apparently Apple has no problem granting other conservative apps, has no problem with religious apps, so why the outrageous speech? It’s headline news for a complete underdog. The fact that he’s a…disingenuous…regarding the facts apparently causes him no discomfort. Do we really need politicians like this in any party?

zewazir

I have trouble with calling a piece of code whose only purpose is to distribute specific and biased information an App.  I agree with the “ban them all” approach. If people want to use their iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad to view political info, let them use the web browsing abilities to hit the candidates websites.

Seems to me developing campaign-propaganda apps are a waste of time on the candidates’ parts anyway. A person who downloads an app from Candidate X is most likely going to vote for Candidate X anyway.  How many people out there are downloading apps from candidates they oppose? Nor are undecided voters likely to use this type of source to help them decide.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

Seems to me developing campaign-propaganda apps are a waste of time on the candidates? parts anyway. A person who downloads an app from Candidate X is most likely going to vote for Candidate X anyway.? How many people out there are downloading apps from candidates they oppose? Nor are undecided voters likely to use this type of source to help them decide.

You could make the same argument for any of the apps pushing brands as well. If you download the Pepsi app, what is the likelihood that you’ll switch to Coke?

The thing I love the most is that we all have different views and shades of those views of what Apple should permit and what they should ban. This ensures that nobody will be satisfied, and fully demonstrates the folly of Apple’s approach to strictly controlling the software available in the iPhone/iPad app ecosystem. It’s all wonderful when Apple is the only game in town, but at some point, the openness of Android Marketplace (and ability to self-install anyway) and the size of Android user base make the cost of deploying a game, or propaganda, or branded experience to iPhone too high relative to benefit.

Frank Lowney

The only way that you can get away with being a censor is to work withing the parameters of a totalitarian state.  Otherwise, you are toast.

Getting into the censorship game is Apple’s biggest recent mistake.  They have executed so well on just about everything else so this really sticks out like a sore thumb.

Eclipse

Uh, no - you?re off your nut on this one. One of my favorite apps (and the only political app I have) is something called My Gov. It?s simply a database of all the Congressmen, Senators, their voting records, and pertinent information. Not propaganda in the least.

I should have been more specific about political Aps. I meant Aps published by a candidate which do nothing but pump the candidate and denigrate the opponent.

I am not familiar with the My Gov Ap, but it sounds more like a fact based information Ap, like Flixter.  Unless is presents opinions on the voting records of members of congress, I wouldn’t consider it political at all.

xmattingly

the Republicans are just insane with their hyperbolic rhetoric the last few years, and usually completely bereft of logic and facts.

If you’re only seeing this coming from one party, then you are not the centrist you claim to be, or are only paying attention to liberal media. Example: Obama’s claim that your money into health care reform is not tax. Even though the IRS will collect it and manage the revenue. I could go on.

Seems to me developing campaign-propaganda apps are a waste of time on the candidates? parts anyway. A person who downloads an app from Candidate X is most likely going to vote for Candidate X anyway.

Politicians love to jump on the new media bandwagon at any opportunity. Having their app probably isn’t much different from wearing a “vote for blah blah blah” button or bumper sticker. Just one more way that you can show support… there is also the opportunity to generate ad revenue as well.

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