The aroma of censorship has wafted from Apple headquarters in Cupertino for some time. The company's equivalent of the Catholic Church's National League of Decency ensures that no stray content worry or upset any iPhone or iPad user. No swear words. No bikinis (unless you happen to be Sports Illustrated, in which case apparently it is fine). Now Apple is intent on preventing public figures from ever feeling uncomfortable.
Mark Fiore just just won the Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning -- the first time the prize was given to a strictly online artist. His work is sharp, funny, and clever:
You'd think that someone so experienced in virtual media would create an iPhone app ... and you'd be right, he did. Only Apple turned it down in December. Why? Because his satire "ridicules public figures":
We’ve reviewed NewsToons and determined that we cannot post this version of your iPhone application to the App Store because it contains content that ridicules public figures and is in violation of Section 3.3.14 from the iPhone Developer Program License Agreement which states: “Applications may be rejected if they contain content or materials of any kind (text, graphics, images, photographs, sounds, etc.) that in Apple’s reasonable judgement [sic] may be found objectionable, for example, materials that may be considered obscene, pornographic, or defamatory.” Examples of such content have been attached for your reference.
Apparently Apple was willing to consider the app if Fiore were willing to strip the offending content out -- which would leave pretty much nothing.
I won't rant about the First Amendment, because it specifically discusses government interference with speech, not actions of the private sector. However, there is something fundamentally and ironically disturbing when a communications device vendor positions itself to guard and control the perceptions and sensibilities of the public.
It's not as though anyone is forced to buy and use the application. But for whatever reason, Apple has decided that its app store cannot withstand the mere presence of satirical cartoons -- and the Apple developer's agreement legally prohibits Fiore from selling the iPhone app anywhere other than through Apple's store, so there is no alternative way to reach the iPhone- or iPad-wielding public.
The ironies abound because now Apple, by a ridiculous and over-reaching activist majority on the Supreme Court, has the legal right to spend as much money as it wants to influence elections and the political process. No one can tell Apple to restrain its speech, but Apple can refuse to let others spend their own time and money to state and distribute their views using devices and software they choose to purchase.
The final irony? Apple first made a name for itself with a single commercial run during the 1984 Super Bowl. A woman, representing the company, ran through a seated crowd and shattered the image of Big Brother. Now the wheel has come fully around and the image on the screen is of Apple and Steve Jobs himself.