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Schiller: Recent app bans based on public complaints

updated 09:50 am EST, Tue February 23, 2010

Surge of 'very objectionable' apps, exec claims

The recent crackdown on "overtly sexual" iPhone apps is based on a rash of complaints from the public, says Apple's senior VP of worldwide product marketing, Phil Schiller. The executive claims that an "increasing number of apps containing very objectionable content" have been submitted to the App Store in the past few weeks, generating a backlash from the more easily offended.

"It came to the point where we were getting customer complaints from women who found the content getting too degrading and objectionable," says Schiller, "as well as parents who were upset with what their kids were able to see."

It is believed that over 5,000 titles have been removed from the App Store since last week, and that the total number of "objectionable" apps may be as high as 5 percent of the 140,000-plus that Apple at least used to host. The company is asking upset developers to turn to help from iTunes Connect, which includes guides and contact information.

The bans are being called hypocritical however, as Apple continues to sell official Playboy and Sports Illustrated Swimsuit apps, which nominally violate Apple's new rules but have the backing of wealthy, well-known publishers. The policy change may potentially ruin some smaller developers, such as On the Go Girls, which notes that all 50 of its apps are no longer on sale. "It's very hard to go from making a good living to zero," says the company's co-president, Fred Clarke. "This goes farther than sexy content. For developers, how do you know you aren't going to invest thousands into a business only to find out one day you've been cut off?"

Asked about Sports Illustrated, Schiller defends the apparent double-standard, citing source and intent. "The difference is this is a well-known company with previously published material available broadly in a well-accepted format," the VP insists. Fred Clarke meanwhile says that while On the Go will continue to develop for Apple platforms, it plans to explore alternate ones such as Android. Unlike the App Store, apps entering the Android Market are initially unfiltered; they are only flagged and/or removed later, as need be.

by MacNN Staff



  1. iphonerulez

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Sports Illustrated and Playboy have clout...

    On the Go Girls has nothing going for it. I guess that company would be better off developing for Android.

    Oh, well. Double standards exist everywhere.

  1. Raman

    Joined: Dec 1969



    If they removed every app that offended certain people then they would have very little apps.

    Apple is driving developers off the app store to HTML5 web apps. Apple is voting with their wallet and telling the developer they don't want the revenue from their "overtly sexual" apps.

    I, as an AAPL shareholder am certainly disturbed by Apple's attempt at morally cleansing their app store. They could easily have a setting in iTunes or on the iPhone that doesn't let the user (kid) include a certain level of rating's app in their search results, etc. The developer could self-rate the app and then Apple wouldn't have to take any action unless there were complaints submitted by users. Are parents crying foul when Google Image Search lets their kids view "overtly sexual" images?

    While I have no interest in these "overtly sexual" apps, I do think that parents (not Apple or your local government, Chevy in-car LCD TV's) should be responsible in PARENTING their children.

  1. Gazoobee

    Joined: Dec 1969



    I find Apple's PR on this to be simply unbelievable (as in they are lying).

    Have you ever tried to complain about an app in the app store? I have and there are no email links to complain about anything other than technical issues with the store. You have to go out of your way and basically use a wrong channel to communicate at all. Then you get an email saying that all issues with the apps themselves should be addressed to the developers of the app and a lot of boilerplate and more links to complain about "technical issues with the store" (only.) If you push it, they send your email one level up, then a week later you get the same response from some other person. Keep complaining and they will keep pushing you up the support ladder, but so far I've never seen the top of it.

  1. darkelf

    Joined: Dec 1969


    start complaining

    okay, start complaining about the lack of objectionable content, see what happens.

  1. Salty

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Oh Please

    Oh please, while I personally haven't viewed any of "On the Go Girls" apps, I've got to say I'm sorry but I can't be bothered to care. It's the internet if you're really having a hard time selling pictures of naked people you need some serious help... or maybe you should find something more meaningful to spend your time on.
    The fact is nothing stops an iPhone developer from writing a good HTML5 app, and I don't imagine that their content needs any hardware features... least... I really hope it doesn't! All this means is Apple doesn't want to provide you free advertising.

  1. nat

    Joined: Dec 1969



    what you folks are saying is that not only is 5000 apps ok, but there should be no limit. let's allow them to get as many as they want.

    again i ask, why are there no p*** ads on this site? newsweek? pcworld? nytimes? why doesn't netflix rent p***? after all, it's big business. really big business. there's a lot of money to be made in it. seems to me that since newspapers are in a real bad way they could exist rather nicely by just accepting p*** advertisers.
    netflix is clearly losing out on a huge income source as well.
    what is their problem?

    i think it's just a matter of drawing the line. playboy, si, etc. are not going to be posting thousands of apps. they're not going to show up in searches where they have no business being.

    do we really want 50,000 apps of jiggling jugs in the app store?

    you can use a browser and see all the naked or semi naked pics you want. apple, nor anyone else, has any obligation to offer that to you in their store simply because you feel censored or for any other reason.

  1. panjandrum

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Distasteful but still Censorship

    While I do find some of the "less classy" examples of adult-oriented materials distasteful, I very much believe that this is a choice I should allowed to make for myself, and I find censorship of any kind to be much more distasteful. Nat appears to be concerned about what we commonly call the "slippery slope", where allowing one of these apps in opens the gates for all of them. That's true of course, but I think opening the gates of censorship is much more dangerous. There has always been some amount conflict between those who are comfortable with sexuality and those who are not. Personally I think the best approach Apple could take would be one of separation and protection. Separate the adult content and then try not to sell it to minors. But censoring an entire type of content? Well, if we start censoring sexuality, then I think we better censor violence as well, hadn't we? (And no, I would not seriously suggest censoring that either, I'm just making a point). I mean, after all, what is more offensive, a picture of a naked person, or active scenes of exploding flesh, death, and dismemberment? I know it is a question frequently asked, but things like what Apple is doing right now suggest that even the more liberal-minded among us still answer that question the wrong way time and time again... That's always the problem with this type of argument, where do we draw the line and who gets to draw it? Why would Apple do this with apps but not movies, tv shows, or music? Is that content next in line for elimination from the iTunes store. If not, then why not. If this happens at the iTunes store then will other stores feel forced to follow along in order to cater to the whims of those who find sexuality so offensive? The slippery slope I'm describing there certainly seems a lot more dangerous than carrying content that a certain portion of the population is uncomfortable with and which they can simply avoid, of their own volition, if they so wish.

  1. GB in HK

    Joined: Dec 1969


    What about music, movies and TV shows?

    I'm scratching my head as I watch this app story continue because it's completely illogical. On what basis does Apple distinguish between music, movies and television shows with plenty of sexual content -- which are still available from the iTunes store -- and the applications they've chosen to censor? It smells an awful lot like the selective book burning some of us thought we left behind last century. Apple, please explain.

  1. ggirton

    Joined: Dec 1969


    The first amendment

    doesn't guarantee that you can sell apps on Apple's App Store.

    First, no farting apps, and now this! What will be next to go --
    anything having to do with the body, probably.

  1. carrots

    Joined: Dec 1969


    The problem

    The problem can be seen in the following paragraph, from the story:

    The policy change may potentially ruin some smaller developers, such as On the Go Girls, which notes that all 50 of its apps are no longer on sale. "It's very hard to go from making a good living to zero," says the company's co-president, Fred Clarke. "This goes farther than s*** content. For developers, how do you know you aren’t going to invest thousands into a business only to find out one day you’ve been cut off?"

    "all 50 of its apps." Right there- ONE developer has 50 different apps simply for the purpose of showing boobies. Why? Why do they need 50 of them? ONE app, with in- app purchase, would have been okay. But 50? that's when you start having stuff pop up in searches when you don't want it to. Of course, p*** purveyors NEVER do things like that intentionally... they NEVER deliberately try to have their wares er.. um... exposed to people who aren't looking for them. Nope... completely innocent...

    Get real. The App store was on a course for being inundated by app after app from the same people, and Apple decided to take quick, drastic action to prevent the app store from being taken over by 5,000,000 p*** apps. I'm sure the policy will be tweaked over the next while, to allow apps that serve more innocent purposes, such as swimwear sales, breast cancer awareness (?) and the like to be placed in the store. But many, if not most, p*** businesses use unethical, dubious tactics to get their material out there to people who don't even want it, and Apple doesn't want that. So it drew a line.

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