Winning a Pulitzer doesn’t just help your career—it can also help you get around Apple’s censorship. Mark Fiore, who this week became the first online-only cartoonist to win the prize and the first to win for creating animated cartoons, mentioned in an interview that months ago Apple rejected his application to sell an iPhone app containing some of his satiric political animations. Apple told him that the company wouldn’t sell apps with “materials that may be considered obscene, pornographic, or defamatory,” and The New York Times says his app was blocked because “it included cartoons that mocked public figures.” Someone at Apple read this week’s interview and gave Fiore a call, encouraging him to resubmit his application.
He’s not the only app creator to have been rejected by Apple, of course. Apple declined to let one eBook reader in its store last year because it allowed users to download the Kama Sutra from the public domain clearinghouse Project Gutenberg. After a public uproar, Apple relented and let it through. And just this year, Apple made a wholesale cull of adult-oriented apps after users complained about them.
iPhone users have known for some time that Apple aggressively rejects apps, and on the whole don’t much seem to care. But another cartoonist whose app was rejected (and then approved after another media-driven outcry) thinks that the iPad will be a game changer here because of the (there’s that word again) revolutionary nature of the device.
With the introduction of the iPad, the focus of content for these devices moves out of the convenience of having a few apps in your pocket and into the promised land of a media delivery/consumption device that could revolutionize the way the world get’s its news, entertainment and information. Suddenly Apple’s control freak approach threatens the development of the very technology it is supposed to be innovating by placing restrictions and outright rejections upon the content that would be consumed via their devices. Apps for publications and newspaper content won’t be very useful if it only lets us see stuff that Apple and Steve Jobs thinks we should see, and rejects things they don’t like.
If the iPad is supposed to replace the Kindle and even your daily newspaper, the fact that its parent company takes an active role in controlling content it deems “objectionable” is a serious problem. But perhaps if the iPad catches on as a content-delivery device in a wider sense than the iPhone is, it will force Apple to take a more hands-off approach to what content is available.