Wired’s “Gadget Lab” writer Brian X. Chen has posted a call for transparency in the app store, in which he uses the recent rejection and subsequent approval of Mark Fiore’s political cartoon app to remind us that Apple still hasn’t come out with clear guidelines over what is and is not permissible in the app store.

Until it does, Chen notes, journalists are always going to have a Sword of Damocles hanging over their heads, never being quite sure whether the next thing they write is going to bring it down on them.

Tech observers have correctly compared the App Store to Walmart, which refuses to sell musical albums carrying the Parental Advisory tag. Walmart has even suggested that artists change lyrics and CD covers it deems objectionable. Given the retail chain’s position as the world’s largest music retailer, many agree Walmart has altered the way the recording industry creates albums.

The major difference between the App Store and Walmart, however, is that the RIAA has published details about the Parental Advisory program. Apple has not published such documents regarding content for apps.

Various press organizations are asking Apple to come out with guidelines, and to stop rejecting content for “ridiculing public figures” as it did with Fiore. So far, Apple has not responded.

Still, this is an issue that really needs to be addressed. With Apple having the potential to turn into the 800-lb gorilla of electronic delivery of printed media, they could have an unprecedented amount of control over what kinds of media can be disseminated.

If anything, it puts me in mind of the old “1984” commercial. Who would have thought Apple could go from the hammer-thrower to the face on the screen?


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