Pulitzer-winning web cartoonist’s iPhone app was rejected for satire
April 17, 2010 | 12:03 am
Between the new iPad, my last-minute income taxes, and a freelance story I was doing for a local business journal where it seemed like all my sources were hiding from me, I have had a fairly busy week. But I’ve put that behind me now, and expect to begin reviewing the iPad and various applications in earnest this weekend.
But first, here is a story that caught my eye over the last couple of days. This week, web-only political cartoonist Mark Fiore made history as the first web-only artist to win a Pulitzer.
But it turns out that in December, Apple rejected the iPhone app he submitted containing his web animations, because “it contains content that ridicules public figures”. Section 3.3.14 of the iPhone Developer Program License Agreement states that Apple can reject content it finds “objectionable” for whatever reason.
We previously reported on Apple rejecting David Carnoy’s appbook of his novel Knife Music until he removed a single instance of the “f-word”, and Apple’s more recent expulsion of “mature” apps, but this is the first time I had any idea that Apple finds satire objectionable.
But apparently they do—the article about Fiore’s app’s rejection notes that the same thing had happened to other political cartoonists for similar reasons. Both of them were eventually allowed onto the app store after all—and, it turns out, so has Mark Fiore; the New York Times reports that Apple has asked Fiore to resubmit his application.
When his NewsToons app, which displays his weekly animated cartoons, was developed last year, Mr. Fiore said, he had not heard of “the whole concept of getting rejected for ridiculing public figures.”
“That’s what I do. That’s my life!” he said in a telephone interview on Friday from San Francisco. “That’s a tough one to get around if you’re a political cartoonist.”
No less a personage than Steve Jobs himself (or whoever mans Steve Jobs’s e-mail account) stated in an e-mail response to a customer, “This was a mistake that’s being fixed.”
As Ryan Chittum of the Columbia Journalism Review points out, this really ought to worry any media organization who is hitching its wagon to Apple’s star in the hopes that the iPad will “save publishing.”
Why are these publishers neglecting the web, which has no gatekeeper, in favor of Apple’s walled garden with a capricious gatekeeper who could turn bouncer at any moment? Chittum warns:
The press has got to step back and think about the broad implications of this. It would never let the government have such power over its right to publish. It shouldn’t let any corporation have it, either. While it’s at it, the media should campaign against speech restrictions for everybody.
Back at the New York Times article, Mark Fiore feels slightly guilty that his Pulitzer win apparently caused Apple to have a change of heart:
“Sure, mine might get approved, but what about someone who hasn’t won a Pulitzer and who is maybe making a better political app than mine?” he asked. “Do you need some media frenzy to get an app approved that has political material?”
It seems as though, in a significant number of cases, “Cause a public furor to get Apple to reconsider your app” is becoming a standard step in the “how to publish an iPhone app” checklist. And that’s a real shame.