Politician Accuses Apple of Liberal Political Agenda in App Store Approvals

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.