Censorship is a slippery slope.
Just weeks after Apple came under fire for approving – and then un-approving – a game called "Baby Shaker," the company has again caved to critics, and eliminated two new applications. The first is Drivetrain, a BitTorrent client that would make it easy for users to access potentially copyrighted content.
As of yesterday, Apple announced that it had decided to deny the request. "[T]his category of applications is often used for the purpose of infringing third-party rights," said a spokesman, according to Wired. "We have chosen to not publish this type of application to the App Store."
The same fate greeted "Me So Holy," an application which let users snap a photo of themselves, and afix it to the body of a coterie of religious figures, including Jesus.
In the case of "Baby Shaker," Apple was responding to a spate of bad press – and the protestations of a handful of well-organized interest groups. With the BitTorrent client, Apple is presumably seeking to preempt a nasty legal battle over copyright laws. (Remember Pirate Bay?) But with the "Me So Holy" app, could Apple be setting a dangerous precedent?
In a time when retail stores have become increasingly accepting of adult-themed material, and even Apple's own iTunes features a great deal of adult content, Apple has chosen the iPhone as the platform for its moral stand. While at times contradictory, its rejections and policies send a clear message to users – Apple will decide what content is moral enough for them.
The real danger
The biggest danger, of course, is that Apple could cut down too heavily on new applications, thus threatening the very openness that made the applications store such a success in the first place. Still, the company has time to right the ship. Why not, for instance, publish a more detailed document that lays out what kind of content is allowed – and what will be denied? Or, better yet, why not allow users themselves to vote on what applications make the cut?