Apple has reportedly pulled QDrops, an app which sent alerts about the absolutely inane QAnon conspiracy theory, from its App Store after an NBC News inquiry into why the hell it and Google’s Play Store were profiting off of it.
QAnon is an incredibly elaborate online conspiracist yarn that more or less boils down to a series of posts on message board 4chan and its bastard offspring 8chan from “Q,” supposedly a government agent with high security clearance, claiming that Donald Trump is preparing to turn the tables on deep state agents guilty of everything from child sex trafficking to false flag mass shootings in a coming purge called “The Storm.” It is, like its predecessor Pizzagate, extremist horseshit, but that hasn’t stopped it from acquiring a huge online following including celebrities like Roseanne Barr and inspiring devotees to ill-advised stunts with firearms.
QDrops, developed by husband-and-wife team Richard and Adalita Brown of North Carolina under the name Tiger Team Inc., is a 99-cent app that updates people on the latest ravings to emerge from the QAnon community. According to NBC, it “lingered at the top of Apple’s App Store and Google’s Play Store for months, with both tech giants receiving a cut of the revenue in the process.” At one point soon after its launch in April, NBC added, it was the number 10 app on the App Store, and number one in the entertainment section—and it was in the Play Store entertainment section’s top 25 apps.
In other words, both Apple and Google likely made a fair chunk of change off of QDrops.
Apple removed the app as of Sunday. In a statement to NBC, company spokeswoman Stephanie Saffer said the app had violated App Store policies, though was not specific on which:
The App Store has always supported all points of view being represented, as long as the apps are respectful to users with differing opinions and the quality of the experience is great. We have published clear guidelines that developers must follow in order for their apps to be distributed by the App Store, designed to foster innovation and provide a safe environment to all of our users. We will take swift action to remove any apps that violate our guidelines or the law—we take this responsibility very seriously.
The QDrops Twitter account remains active, with the developers claiming they intend to have it back on the store soon.
As noted by Apple Insider, Apple’s senior vice president of Internet Software and Services Eddy Cue told attendees at the South by Southwest festival in March that the company believes “free speech is important, but we don’t think white supremacist speech or hate speech is free speech that ought to be out there” on its platform.
QDrop remains available on the Google Play Store.
Other big tech companies including Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, and YouTube have all faced their own accusations of promoting or profiting off misinformation and hate speech. Apple, which is primarily in the business of making hardware, has largely avoided the controversies courted by its brethren.
NYC Media Lab executive director Justin Hendrix told NBC News, “There was an argument to be made that Apple was the only major technology company that did not directly profit off misinformation. But this app diminishes it substantially.”