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Censoring apps is not the answer

Angry Birds. Words With Friends. Urbanspoon. There’s no denying it — our society loves apps. They’re useful, educational and entertaining. But not all apps are so harmless and innocent.

Take, for instance, the Baby Shaker, a game whose goal is to shake the iPhone fast enough to make an infant stop crying. When a player “wins,” the baby dies. Immediately after Apple was alerted to this app’s existence, Apple removed it.

How about the one like “PhantomAlert” or “Trapster0,”which let users upload known police checkpoints so drunk drivers can avoid them? That app was deleted, also.

Clearly, these were awful apps that had no place in Apple’s App Store, which currently offers more than 350,000 apps for download, according to Apple.

The word “censorship” does not immediately register when one considers Apple’s actions on the aforementioned applications. But that’s what it is — censorship. So, what else is Apple censoring?

Just plain stupid apps, too, like “I am Rich,” which had no purpose other than to show others you could afford its hefty $999.99 price tag. Eight stupid people bought this app before Apple pulled it.

Apple also does not allow pornography, which is actually somewhat surprising, considering the potential revenue.

“Right” and “wrong” get murkier, however, when one considers the app by Exodus International. It aimed to “cure” homosexuality and offered Bible scriptures, testimonials and stories. Don’t get me wrong — this app is downright offensive.

But some people, unfortunately, would not even blink an eye at an app like that. They don’t find it offensive — they find it as their religious perspective.

And what about atheists, who claim a Bible app is offensive? Everyone has different religious beliefs, and there will always be dissidents.

One must also consider religion’s controversial sister — politics.

According to an April 26, 2010 article from Wired, Apple decided to remove a political cartoon app by Mark Fiore, won has won a Pulitzer Prize. Apple’s reasoning? “It ridicules public figures.” Well, that’s the point. It’s a political cartoon. After massive backlash, Apple reversed its decision and the app is now back on the market.

The more thinly you slice the issue, the more difficult it becomes. Why is it so difficult to tell how an app could get banned? The lack of transparency in Apple’s policies.

At the moment, Apple’s only official standard for content is found in the user agreement, which states “Apple’s reasonable judgment may be found objectionable, for example, materials that may be considered obscene, pornographic, or defamatory.”

I don’t mean to say that I believe there should be apps for condoning drunk driving or shaking a baby to death. But apps that are ideological in nature, whether they are offensive or not, simply can’t be censored.

At the risk of going off on an Orwellian rant, the repercussions of Apple censoring political matters could be grave. Do you really want Apple controlling what news you do and do not receive via iPhone app? Do you really want Apple to shape your opinions for you?

Sure, it’s not 1984, but it is 2011,and it’s time Apple writes up clear and specific guidelines for content regulation.

Emily Atteberry is a freshman journalism and Spanish double major from Olathe, Kan.

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