The Israeli government has asked Steve Jobs to remove an app, which it claims encourages violent Palestinian protests, from the App Store, putting Apple in the position of moral arbiter.
In a letter addressed to Jobs, a government minister said the Arabic-language app, called “Third Intifada,” which aggregates information about planned protests against Israel, is a threat to Israel.
“I am convinced that you are aware of this type of application’s ability to unite many toward an objective that could be disastrous,” said Yuli-Yoel Edelstein, minister of public diplomacy, in the letter, according to Reuters.
Apple has not yet issued a comment on the letter, and the app remains available.
The request puts the company in an uncomfortable position, especially if the app’s support for violence is not explicit. In that case, Apple could face accusations of suppressing free speech or giving preference to one set of political interests over another. The company will alienate someone, no matter what it decides to do.
Tech companies increasingly find themselves responsible for content offered in their app stores. Apple’s tight regulation of high-profile apps make it a lightning rod for such complains, but Google’s Android Market and others have also been forced to make decisions that require a moral stance.
Apple recently removed an app after complaints that it was hostile to gays, for example. It also rejected a game from the App Store that centered on illegal immigrants’ attempts to cross a border. Both Apple and Google have banned “spy” apps that target jealous spouses and turn phones into a location tracking listening device.
Facebook recently shut down a page calling for Palestinian uprising after Israeli complaints. It’s an interesting counterpoint to the critical role social media sites have played in organising protests against authoritarian regimes across the Arab world, beginning with the revolution in Tunisia in December.
The Second Intifada, or Palestinian uprising, began in 2000 and led to thousands of deaths on both sides.
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