Every so often, we carry a story about some inane decision the iOS app store approvers have made. For example, there was the time they rejected an EPUB reader app because it could read the Kama Sutra. (They changed their mind on that, but later rejected a Kama Sutra app that had been in the app store for several years.)
But at least rejections that center around potential prurient material are understandable. What’s more disturbing is Apple’s trend of trying to be inoffensive by rejecting games and apps that deal with political issues. The latest example of this is an app made for the purpose of reporting lethal drone strikes around the world, by @dronestream operator Josh Begley.
When Begley submitted the Dronestream app under its own name, it was repeatedly rejected. When he submitted it under an unrelated name, “Metadata+,” it was approved last year—then just now rejected for “disturbing content” once Apple apparently finally noticed what it did. (Begley has submitted it again, under the name “Ephemeral+,” and it’s still in the app store—for now.)
There are a couple of different ridiculous things about this process. One is Apple’s weirdly subjective criteria for app rejections. Apps that offer text notifications of drone attacks are verboten, whereas sexist apps like “Rack Stare,” stupid fart-sound apps, or video games involving animated piles of poop are just fine. Another is that apparently nobody actually bothers to test the apps that are submitted, or even put violators on some kind of watchlist to give their apps extra scrutiny. All Begley had to do to get Dronestream back in the app store was just make it suitably nondescript—and that trick worked not once, but twice.
But that’s Apple for you. Fortunately, Google’s Android app rejection policies are considerably less restrictive, and apps that fail to pass even those can still be made available elsewhere. Meanwhile, Apple just had to pull dozens of apps from the iOS store for containing embedded malware. So it goes…