Apple removed a Palestinian protest app from its online store, after the Israeli government claimed it incited violence.
The Arabic-language “Third Intifada” app provided information on upcoming anti-Israeli demonstrations and links to pro-Palestinian content on the web, including “incitements to protest and violence,” according the Simon Wiesenthal Center, which is dedicated to stopping anti-Semitism.
The Israeli government appealed to Apple founder Steve Jobs to remove the app from its marketplace.
“We removed this app from the App Store because it violates the developer guidelines by being offensive to large groups of people,” said an Apple spokesman.
The app joins an anti-gay title, an app that let users paste their faces on photos of religious figures and a game that centered on immigrants illegally entering the U.S. in being rejected from the App Store because of content that “large groups” could find offensive.
The slipperiness of rejecting apps based on criteria like offensiveness was demonstrated last year when political cartoonist Mark Fiore’s app was accepted into the App Store after being initially rejected because of its content. Nothing had changed, except that Fiore had won a Pulitzer Prize for his cartoons.
App store owners will continue to deal with thorny judgment questions, but Apple’s role as censor has a greater impact on its ecosystem than that of Google or Amazon on Android. When Apple rejects an app, it vanishes entirely from the iOS world. When Google banishes an app from the Google Market, though, Android users are still free to install it directly from the publisher.
However, Apple’s grip on its platform may be slipping. The advent of more advanced web apps powered by HTML5 may give iOS developers and users a way to bypass the App Store entirely. For example, the Financial Times recently launched a web app when it couldn’t come to an agreement with Apple about profit sharing on subscriptions purchased from with its iOS app.