Apple has pulled its iTunes store from the Christian Values Network due to what it sees as the network’s contributions to controversial groups, as tech companies tread carefully in the midst of complicated social issues.
The Cupertino, Calif.-based company removed iTunes from the list of stores on CVN.org after the company discovered CVN had made contributions to what the Southern Poverty Law centre deemed “active hate groups.”
Apple was made aware of CVN’s actions by Western Washington University student Ben Crowthe, who started a petition against Apple’s connections to the group on Change.org, citing CVN’s support of groups he characterised as anti-gay and anti-women.
Apple is not the first company to remove one of its offerings from CVN. Microsoft pulled itself off of the website two weeks ago, also a result of a customer-driven campaign on Change.org. The two companies join Macy’s, Wells Fargo, Delta Airlines, BBC America and others that have all removed their online stores from the site.
Apple’s move also comes as tech companies begin to face increased criticism for censorship. In April, Facebook reportedly removed a picture of two men kissing, along with the picture’s associated event, which was a call to protest a U.K. bar that banned a gay couple.
The social network said the picture violated its policy against “nudity or any kind of graphic or sexually aggressive contact.” However, the photo Facebook removed did not seem to contain anything that violated the policy. The two men were kissing, but other photos of people kissing have not been removed from the site, a move critics said sent a mixed message.
While companies like Apple and Facebook monitor and sometimes censor their sites to minimize offending people, Google approaches things differently. The company does not believe censorship should play a role on the Web.
Google also differs from Apple in the way it approaches censorship in its mobile app store. Apple monitors the apps that appear its App Store very closely, while Google does not. Last year, the Apple removed the “Manhattan Declaration” app from its App Store after thousands protested against content, which was described as anti-gay.
While Apple and Facebook’s attempts to walk the line may appear more thoughtful than Google’s “anything goes” approach, they could become increasingly tough to exercise. People will always have contrasting opinions, leaving a certain portion of consumers upset no matter what companies decide.