In a word, censorship. I'm really uncomfortable with the way Apple dictate their prudish, middle-class American values to the rest of the world, and I worry about where it might end up.
Apple censor applications:
In February they banned 5,000 supposedly "titillating applications" (like this rather inane one), but they somehow overlooked apps from lucrative publications like Playboy and Sports Illustrated.
This story details how an app called Funny Shoppers got approved after four submissions and months of talk, only to be pulled the following day. "This time, there were no suggestions, just another change of opinion: They couldn't allow such obscene content in the App Store. Effective immediately, the app that they just approved a day before—after a stupidly long evaluation process—was to be removed from the store. For the developers, it was like dealing with a schizophrenic."
Apple censor magazines and newspapers:
Stern is a German magazine with a print run of over a million copies. Last year Apple took down their iPhone app without notice because it published "a gallery of erotic photos as part of its editorial content. It wasn’t gratuitous: It was just part of the material published in the magazine itself, integrated in their usual sections. The entire app was taken down, according to the Spiegel, and publisher Gruner + Jahr had to eliminate that content in order for the application to go up to the store again. They learnt their lesson, since they haven’t published any other material that may offend Apple’s ”moral police„ - as the German press calls it." (Source)
Daily German newspaper Bild has also fallen foul of the Cupertino cops. "Apple demanded they censor a naked girl in the PDF version of their printed newspaper." (Source)
Staff at UK magazine Dazed and Confused have taken to calling the iPad Edition the Iran Edition "because they have to censor any nudity, no matter how innocent it is. ... Nudity in a fashion magazine is actually editorial content: There are plenty of designers who use transparent fabrics or risque cleavages. Not to mention lingerie."
Apple censor ancient texts:
They rejected an e-book reader because of the app’s ability to download the Kama Sutra. That ban was later reversed.
Apple censor not-so-ancient graphic novels:
This Gizmodo piece details how Apple censors graphic novels -- with before and after illustrations of such well-known porn classics as James Joyce's Ulysses and Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest.
Apple even censor their own Top Ten Titles chart:
In July they removed erotic fiction titles from their own top ten chart. An odd coyness, especially as the same piece notes that "a pornographic video is made, on average, every 39 minutes in the US".
Apple censor political satire:
A year ago they banned a cartoon app called NewsToons by cartoonist Mark Fiore, "on the grounds that it 'ridiculed public figures.' In April 2010, Fiore won the Pulitzer prize for his political satire cartoons. ... Following public outcry after the story broke in the wake of the award, Apple asked Fiore to resubmit his app. Fiore said, '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? Do you need some media frenzy to get an app approved that has political material?' (Source)
Yes, some of this content may be prurient or just plain silly, but I worry that if a corporation can force publishers in foreign countries to change their editorial conditions, what's next?
In the Wikileaks debacle, other US corporations such as Visa and Mastercard have apparently bowed to US State Department pressure and banned donations to the organisation. In a world full if iPads, could the whole embarrassing thing simply be unpublished?
Earlier this year The Washington Post noted: "With the iPad structure, Apple is creating absolute control for product, delivery and even ownership that can be revoked at will. Apple allows or rejects the application (the container); it can remove all or part of any content from its servers; and it can even remotely delete the stuff you purchased. Imagine: You go to a bookstore and spend $25 on a book that a court later finds illicit; a bookstore employee then goes to your place, takes the book from the shelf and leaves some money on your kitchen table. Wouldn't you be slightly uncomfortable with this?
Journalism, much more than music or entertainment, requires channels of dissemination that cannot be vulnerable to any kind of leverage. For content to be free ... platforms and networks must be neutral. Any closed, proprietary system contradicts this imperative."
That's why I'm asking Santa for an Android.