Apple Blocks Pulitzer Prize-Winning Cartoonist From App Store

Illustration for article titled Apple Blocks Pulitzer Prize-Winning Cartoonist From App Store

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.

UPDATE: Apple has asked Fiore to resubmit his NewsToons app, following the overwhelming backlash both here and elsewhere. [Nieman Journalism Lab]



I dont' understand the outrage.

Pornography is protected by the first amendment. So is Apple unethical for not allowing pornographic apps into the app store?

What's the difference?

I'm not saying disagreeing with their decision is a bad thing; I actually disagree with this decision, too! However, Apple is fully entitled to make decisions like this, and it's just a matter for us to decide whether or not having access to satirical comic apps is a deciding factor; we can protest by providing feedback; we can vote with our wallets by not buying apps; switch platforms; Tweet about it.

However, equating this with censorship and going all bonkers about what an EVIL company Apple is is just plain irrational. It's a business decision. They don't want to censor anything. They're just deciding that allowing any and *all* apps that can be categorized as sociopolitical satire could have grave repercussions, financially.