Four days after shocking some users by suddenly removing over 5,000 apps with sexually-explicit content form the App Store, Apple (a) started talking about the decision and (b) created a new category called “explicit” apps. Phil Schiller, Apple’s head of worldwide product marketing, told the New York Times:
It came to the point where we were getting customer complaints from women who found the content getting too degrading and objectionable, as well as parents who were upset with what their kids were able to see.
As the NYT reports, “Many software developers have long complained about Apple’s strict screening process and, at times, seemingly arbitrary decisions about what was acceptable in the App Store.” Tech bloggers have noted that Playboy and Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit apps were untouched, while lesser-known developers had their salacious creations pulled.
If you connect the dots here, it seems pretty clear. Apple made a decision to block some unsavory apps based on an economic decision (women, target consumers, complained, as did parents). They knocked off the smaller app producers as a gesture of caring about sexism without pissing off their big friends, like Playboy and SI.
I’m not necessarily arguing that any of this should be censored. I don’t know enough about the ways in which apps function (truth be told, I don’t have an iPhone) and I’m generally one to fall in the free speech camp on most issues. But it’s pretty clear that Apple is just watching their own asses, financially-speaking, not trying to actually explore the idea of creating a brand that appeals to progressive folks who care about things like, say, little girls not growing up to feel like their power lies in having a perfect body fit for iPhone apps.
I know that Apple is, at its core, a massive corporation that wants to make money, but is it really too much to expect that one of the world’s most creative companies might come up with a creative solution for all this objectification? It’s particularly disheartening that they’re so blase and bottom line about it when so many are innovating at the intersections of profit and nonprofit, social enterprise and market opportunism.
For more see TechCrunch and Huffington Post.
New iPhone app rates your attractiveness
Need a hymen? There’s an app for that.*
I knew there was a reason I didn’t want an iPhone
Thanks to Jaime for the heads up.