Mark Fiore made a little online history this week by being the first web-only journalist to win a Pulitzer Prize. His editorial cartoons, though, were rejected from the App Store for violating Apple's anti-satire provisions. That's a dangerous precedent. UPDATED:
A lot of hay has been made over the App Store's policies, particularly over apps that are deemed pornographic (or bikini-ridden). But it looks as though the concerns raised earlier by German magazine Stern are becoming more and more legitimized: Apple's making judgments on editorial content.
According to Laura McGann at the Nieman Journalism Lab, Fiore received the following email from Apple in late December in response to the submission of his NewsToons app:
Dear Mr. Fiore,
Thank you for submitting NewsToons to the App Store. We've reviewed NewsToons and determined that we cannot post this version of your iPhone application to the App Store because it contains content that ridicules public figures and is in violation of Section 3.3.14 from the iPhone Developer Program License Agreement which states:
"Applications may be rejected if they contain content or materials of any kind (text, graphics, images, photographs, sounds, etc.) that in Apple's reasonable judgment may be found objectionable, for example, materials that may be considered obscene, pornographic, or defamatory." Examples of such content have been attached for your reference.
If you believe that you can make the necessary changes so that NewsToons does not violate the iPhone Developer Program License Agreement, we encourage you to do so and resubmit it for review.
iPhone Developer Program
So that's the statement Apple is making: material that "ridicules public figures" is on the same plane as pornographic and obscene apps.
Apple's walled garden approach to App Store content means they can exclude pretty much whomever they want. But can and should are obviously entirely different things. And if they're sincere about the iPad being the future of media, they're going to need to accept that satirical—even controversial—voices are an essential part of the information landscape. Otherwise, the future might a pretty bleak place.