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Apple rejects Bobble Rep app for objectionable caricatures

updated 03:45 pm EST, Mon November 9, 2009

Developer claims representations are in good taste

Apple has rejected an iPhone app for containing caricatures of politicians, frustrating yet another developer. The app, Bobble Rep, provides a database with the members of Congress, enabling users to navigate through list of politicians and view contact information. Representatives can be located using a zip code or GPS information.

Movie director Ray Griggs reportedly came up with the idea for the app, deciding to make the content more interesting by using caricatures instead of pictures. Griggs commissioned MAD Magazine artist Tom Richmond to produce the artwork, which included no less than 540 caricatures including non-voting members from US territories, according to a post on his blog.

Each of the caricature heads are combined with a body and produce a virtual "bobblehead" effect when the user shakes the phone or flicks the head with a finger swipe. "Of course that's just a novelty, and the real purpose of the app is the database that allows you to find out who your representatives in Washington are and how to contact them."

Like many other developers, Griggs began promoting his app while waiting for a response from Apple. Glenn Beck and Mike Huckabee both booked him on their respective shows to speak about the app and an upcoming documentary.

To the surprise of both Griggs and Richmond, Apple responded to the submission with a letter of rejection, claiming the app contains "content that ridicules public figures." The review team referenced a section of the SDK terms that prohibit objectionable content that may be considered "obscene, pornographic, or defamatory."

"These caricatures aren't mean or very exaggerated. They are simple, fun cartoon likenesses of the politicians and the purpose of the app is a informational database," writes Richmond. The artist also argues that the app does not contain any editorial content that could be considered politically charged.

Apple previously was criticized for initially rejecting iSinglePayer, an iPhone app advocating health care reform in the US. The utility provided similar functionality, locating representatives using GPS, however the content included charts and campaign donation information regarding single-payer health care systems. Apple reversed its decision and approved the app after the story was covered by news outlets. Earlier in the year, the company rejected an iPhone app containing Shepard Fairey's "Hope" poster featuring Barack Obama, despite the president's support of the artwork.

"This is the very reason that Apple as a company should be taken to task over it's ludicrous sanctimonious attitude," says Richmond. "Clearly [Bobble Rep] does not 'ridicule public figures' and is violating nothing, but Apple has decided the world must be protected from the insidious subversiveness this would force upon the public and the brutal, heinous ridicule that my cruel, cruel caricatures would subject these politicians to." [via MetaFilter]

by MacNN Staff





  1. MyRightEye

    Joined: Dec 1969


    FO Apple

    This is ridiculous...

  1. trevj

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Dollars to donuts

    This decision will undoubtedly be reversed within days. Incredibly lame on Apple's part.

  1. Constable Odo

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Seems like it would be a classy app...

    I think that Apple will decide to let this one through eventually. Those are some really nice toned-down political caricatures. Apple most likely needs to do more research on this. I doubt if any of the politicians themselves would have any problem with it. I would think they could lose the bobblehead effect, though. It's a cute feature, but I'd drop it if Apple told me that's the only way I could get it past the censors.

    No doubt the authors are upset now, but I think they'll get their app approved.

  1. danviento

    Joined: Dec 1969


    No Problem with It? Ha!

    Let's see, giving people FAST access to the location of the congress-person's office closest to your current location... And a sketch of what the person looks like to boot? Face-to-face confrontations without staff to deflect or buffer constituents are the last thing many of these people want. Right now especially.

  1. climacs

    Joined: Dec 1969



    I understand why Apple would want to exercise some discretion over what's in the App Store... but geez couldn't they act a little less like a bunch of blue-haired old ladies?

    It's making even a fanboi like me question the long-run viability of exercising this much control over the apps. I've thought about it and it seems to come back to Apple getting a cut of the apps sold. It would seem a significant part of Apple's strategy is to insert itself between content providers and the computer. Whether that is apps for the iPhone or music for your iPod.

    Nobody gets upset with Apple over music with vulgar lyrics purchased from iTunes Music Store. Is it reasonable to presume that if people download objectionable or obscene apps from the App Store, then Apple will be a target of religious busybodies? Just asking.

  1. Loren

    Joined: Dec 1969


    brilliant app

    Not only does this app represent free speech, but it's functional! Caricature is an honored craft, and protected by the First Amendment.

    Vendors like Apple need if not someone with half a brain reviewing, then competent legal counsel in this area to greenlight good apps like this. It's obviously balanced treatment of both major parties. No one looks sillier than anyone else. Recognizable features are exaggerated to make identification effortless and amusing.

    Assuming it works, the fact that this app's true concern is being able to track your member of Congress is frankly stunning in its utility.

    Management's paranoia over anything slightly outside the norm is the dark grey road to mediocrity. We have always expected better from Apple at all times. This is a bright little program I would want on my iTouch or iPhone in a heartbeat.

  1. climacs

    Joined: Dec 1969


    those are really cool cariacatures too!

    as someone who loved Mad Magazine in high school (and younger)... come on Apple! Free Bobble Rep!

  1. hayesk

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Media stunt

    These app store rejections provide a convenient PR opportunity for these developers. A simple call to their developer rep could have their app re-examined and accepted. But now they get the media to write stories about them first. Then they can contact Apple.

    Remember, these app store submissions are done by regular people. Regular people can and do make mistakes, especially when they don't have much time to examine each app.

  1. WiseWeasel

    Joined: Dec 1969



    What a stupid thing to block. Apple really needs to get their act together and only reject apps in the most egregious cases of abuse. App rejections should have to go through many levels of approval up to senior management and the legal department if necessary, as in this case, and be very difficult for employees to justify.

  1. ilovestevejobs

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Stupid Apple

    "SDK terms that prohibit objectionable content that may be considered "obscene, pornographic, or defamatory."

    However how many Apps have I seen that contains asian chicks with big titties or a Japanese App where you can blow a girls skirt up?

    Stupid arse Apple

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