Apple has suddenly banned an app that maps every US drone strike from the App Store, Mic reports.
The Intercept’s Josh Begley created the app to accompany the @dronestream Twitter account, where he posts news stories identifying when and where the US military has carried out a drone strike, and how many people have been killed. That data would then be fed into the Metadata+ app, which would send out push notifications to alert users of a strike.
It took some time — and semantic trickery — for Begley to get Apple to accept the app when it first launched. He initially called it Drones+, but after three failed attempts he changed the name to Dronestream. After another two failed attempts, Begley changed the name of the app to Metadata+, and submitted to the App Store with absolutely no content or functionality, or any mention of drones. After it was accepted, Begley went on to add the archive of drone strikes.
Apple gave several reasons for rejecting the app at first, Begley told Mashable at the time. It was”not useful or entertaining enough,” and “did not appeal to a broad enough audience.” Apple also said that the app used Google Maps images without the “associated Google branding,” and that it contained content that “many audiences would find objectionable.”
Bergley told Mashable that after several failed attempts he was contacted by an Apple employee, who told him that his app wouldn’t be approved if it only focused on drone strikes.
“But if you broaden your topic, then we can take another look,” Begley says the employee told him. “You know, there are certain concepts that we decide not to move forward with, and this is one.”
Months later, Apple has suddenly banned the app.
As Mic points out, the App Store still contains violent games like Hitman: Sniper and Zynga’s Empires and Allies. Begley’s app merely presents information collection from published news reports. But this isn’t the first time that Apple has rejected a journalistic project from the App Store.
Earlier this month the company censored an app which let users take a virtual reality walk through the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. The app didn’t contain any graphic or violent imagery, its creator Dan Archer wrote in a post for Ars Technica about “what happens when app store gatekeepers rule on journalism.” Instead, it showed 3D models of Michael Brown and Darren Wilson in the locations eyewitnesses put them in during the August 2014 shooting, as well as publicly filed evidence like chatter from a police radio and photos of forensic evidence at the scene.
But Archer was also told that Ferguson Firsthand “refers to a very specific event, and therefore its scope is too narrow,” and was encouraged to try again with an app that was “topical, but not focusing on any one single incident or topic.” Archer was pointed to a very vague section of Apple’s Apple Store guidelines:
We will reject Apps for any content or behaviour that we believe is over the line. What line, you ask? Well, as a Supreme Court Justice once said, “I’ll know it when I see it.” And we think that you will also know it when you cross it.
If it sounds like we’re control freaks, well, maybe it’s because we’re so committed to our users and making sure they have a quality experience with our products. Just like almost all of you are, too.
We have reached out to Apple for this story and will update it with any response.
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