Despite the completely inoffensive nature of the application, Apple has repeatedly refused to allow an app tracking U.S. drone strikes by claiming that the content is “objectionable and crude.”
In reality, it is not the app that is “objectionable and crude,” instead it is the program itself which is both objectionable and crude. It makes it even worse that the United States government refuses to justify while continuing to pour money into the field, signaling a lengthy future for the technology.
It is even more concerning that Apple would be blocking an app providing information on drone strikes abroad while drones are already being used in the United States with massive expansion looming on the horizon.
The New York-based developer of the app, Josh Begley, told Danger Room that Apple has turned down his app dubbed “Drones+” a whopping three times in a single month.
One of the most ludicrous aspects of Apple’s refusal to allow this application to reach consumers’ devices is that they continuously shift their reasoning, thus showing it to be essentially arbitrary.
At first they claimed that the application was “not useful” since it is a relatively simple concept which just aggregates news about U.S. drone strikes in the undeclared wars in Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen.
“The features and/or content of your app were not useful or entertaining enough, or your app did not appeal to a broad enough audience.” Apple said in an email to Begley.
The second time around they claimed that there was an issue with hiding a corporate logo and now they have resorted to the “objectionable and crude” excuse.
This is nothing short of laughable since the app doesn’t even show users the horrific images of corpses left lying in the dirt, often with limbs missing and organs exposed, which one can all too easily find online.
All the app does is use a public database of the location of U.S. drone strikes created and compiled and maintained by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism based at City University in London, England.
While Apple provides developers with a set of guidelines for their submissions to the Apple Store, the actual approval process is somewhat mysterious since Apple tends to avoid commenting on it.
One must admit that with a relatively small team of people actually reviewing the apps – which can number as much as 10,000 apps per week – one must expect that they will play it safe when reviewing apps which might be questionable.
However, when the objections change every time around, one can safely assume that it isn’t really a problem with the technical or design aspects of the app but instead with the subject matter it is dealing with.
“If the content is found to be objectionable, and it’s literally just an aggregation of news, I don’t know how to change that,” said Begley.
The app really doesn’t do all that much since it simply catalogs when and where a drone strike occurs based on information from the Bureau of Investigative Reporting along with some very basic information from the media about who they believe may have been targeted.
Where the app really shines is with the notification system. “I wanted to play with this idea of push notifications and push button technology — essentially asking a question about what we choose to get notified about in real time,” says Begley.
“I thought reaching into the pockets of U.S. smartphone users and annoying them into drone-consciousness could be an interesting way to surface the conversation a bit more,” he said.
Indeed, increasing awareness of the drone campaign is of vital importance in every sector of society. I believe that the effort to encourage the people actually developing military robots to refuse to work on military technology altogether is a great idea but increasing awareness amongst the general public is incredibly critical as well.
Since the smartphone application market is massive and continuing to grow, an app like Drones+ could be a great tool in making people aware of the frequency of these strikes.
Unfortunately on August 27, Apple told Begley in an email, “We found that your app contains content that many audiences would find objectionable, which is not in compliance with the App Store Review Guidelines.”
Interestingly, this is the first time that Apple has objected to the actual content of Begley’s app when the content hasn’t changed significantly since he first submitted it in July.
I think Danger Room makes a good point in bringing up the fact that Begley’s app essentially does the same thing as other news aggregators in simply collecting media reports into one place for convenient consumption. “And of course, the App Store houses innumerable applications for news publications and aggregators that deliver much of the same content provided by Begley’s app,” they note.
Unsurprisingly, Apple would not comment on the multiple refusals to approve the application when contacted by Wired.
“I’m kind of back at the drawing board about what exactly I’m supposed to do,” said Begley. In an attempt to get around all of the frustration, Begley said he is considering just going through the Android Market.
I see no legitimate reason why Apple should refuse to approve this application. If they want to block potentially “objectionable and crude” content, they should go ahead and restrict websites which can be visited and perhaps the countless flatulence-related applications in the App Store.
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This article first appeared at End the Lie.
Madison Ruppert is the Editor and Owner-Operator of the alternative news and analysis database End The Lie and has no affiliation with any NGO, political party, economic school, or other organization/cause. He is available for podcast and radio interviews. Madison also now has his own radio show on Orion Talk Radio from 8 pm -- 10 pm Pacific, which you can find HERE. If you have questions, comments, or corrections feel free to contact him at admin@EndtheLie.com
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