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Apple Bans RSS Reader Due To Bad Word In Feed Link 254

Posted by kdawson
from the rabbit-holes-have-rabbit-holes dept.
btempleton writes "It all started when I prepared yet another Downfall subtitle parody. In this one, Hitler is the studio head, upset at all the Downfall parodies, and he wants to do DMCA takedowns on them all. (If you're a DMCA/DRM fighting Slashdotter, you'll like it.) The EFF, which I chair, blogged it on Deeplinks, and hilarity ensued. That weekend, Exact Magic, an iPhone developer, had submitted a special RSS reader app to display EFF news on the iPhone. Apple's iPhone app store evaluators looked at the RSS reader, read the feed it pointed to, and then played the linked-to video. They saw the F-word flash in the subtitles of the video, and then rejected the RSS-reading tool from the App Store. We're up to several levels of meta here — Apple has banned an app over a parody about banning, and is now parodying itself. Bonus: TFA also has the story of just how hard it is to be fully legal in obtaining the famous clip for parody."
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Apple Bans RSS Reader Due To Bad Word In Feed Link

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  • by Tokerat (150341) on Wednesday June 03, 2009 @01:06AM (#28192315) Journal

    I'm an Apple fanboy and even I'm sick of this.

    If they're not careful, pretty soon the PSP Go App Store is going to be the one making all the money. Hey Sony, PSPhone in the works?

    • by rs79 (71822)

      You should have struck with string jokes, Brad. Look at the trouble you've caused. ...gryphon!richard

    • by Z00L00K (682162) on Wednesday June 03, 2009 @01:53AM (#28192581) Homepage

      Censorship is more indecent than any use of profanity ever can be.

      Someone has to make a reality check.

    • Re: (Score:2, Redundant)

      Nokia N900 looks good enough for me to consider neither Apple, nor Sony. Thank you.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by that IT girl (864406)
      Erm... If you're upset at the way Apple is treating their customers, I don't think running to Sony is running in the right direction.
  • by Daniel Dvorkin (106857) * on Wednesday June 03, 2009 @01:07AM (#28192319) Homepage Journal

    ... I can think of two possibilities here.

    1. Someone high up in the App Store hierarchy is completely batshit insane. They're a fundie wacko, or they're deathly afraid of the Think Of The Chiiildren wackos, or something like that. I really just can't believe that the orders to ban anything that can get dirty words from anywhere on the internet came down from upper management; they can't be that ignorant. So it's someone on a personal crusade who has just enough pull to make it work.

    2. Apple basically wants to own every internet-enabled app on the iPhone, and they're using these dumb excuses to get rid of any competition. Sooner or later, they think, everything you do on the iPhone that isn't strictly local will go through an app bearing the Apple logo.

    Either way, it's a dumb move. I'm one of those irritating smug Mac users everyone loves to whine about. The last five computers I've bought have been Macs, and the next five probably will be as well. Whenever anyone asks me about what to do with their malware-ridden PCs, I say, "get a Mac." And I was seriously considering getting an iPhone to go with my iPod and iEverythingElse ... but I'm not going to even think about it until Apple fixes whatever the hell is going on with the App Store. I really doubt I'm the only one.

    • by Mr2001 (90979) on Wednesday June 03, 2009 @01:24AM (#28192421) Homepage Journal

      Speaking as an Apple critic, I think there's a possibility you missed:

      3. Apple's system of approving apps has no objective guidelines, no oversight, and no accountability; the result is total fucking chaos. Individual testers are allowed to make decisions based on "offensiveness" criteria they make up themselves, and this particular app happened to be tested by an uptight moron who went to great lengths to find some reason to ban it.

      Based on the stories I've heard about rejected apps being approved simply by resubmitting them, this might even be true. If so, Apple needs to fire a bunch of people, and then write a real set of guidelines so everyone inside and outside the company is on the same page.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        This is happening often enough, and in a similar enough way each time, that it seems likely to me that someone's doing it as a matter of policy. If it's just individual actions on the part of low-level employees, I'd expect those people to be discovered and fired fairly quickly.

      • by beelsebob (529313) on Wednesday June 03, 2009 @01:39AM (#28192521)

        4. They have an automated script that launches the app, greps the text on screen for naughty words, checks it doesn't crash/access things it shouldn't/leak memory etc. and rejects apps before a human even looks at them.

        I wonder if this is the right answer?

        • by Anpheus (908711)

          I'd believe the first half, but Apple obviously doesn't make sure the apps don't crahs, leak memory or access things they shouldn't. Several apps break the API and use hidden API calls (Google's apps) and I haven't yet met an iPhone app that won't crash if you look at it funny.

        • by emlyncorrin (818871) on Wednesday June 03, 2009 @04:13AM (#28193221)
          But in this case, the "naughty words" are embedded into a video. So it's not just scanning the text, it would have to do OCR on each frame of the video too.
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by selfevident (171984)

          5. The App Store is primarily a fence, not a farm. Its purpose is to make the iPhone safe as a mass market device. So long as there are _enough_ apps to keep iPhone users giggly with delight as they finger their toy -- and there are plenty -- Apple will choose to err on the side of over-censoring. Better to block an app that might offend than make the iPhone seem threatening or risque.

          This totalitarianism has been so successful for Apple that we should expect it to grow upwards as Apple introduces its next

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by sootman (158191)

          5) John Gruber supplies #5 [daringfireball.net]

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Doesn't iTunes sell songs that have cuss words in them?

      Seems a little hypocritical. Apple will sell songs with cuss words for money, but won't let free apps with cuss words be put on their app store? (I am assuming the RSS feed app was free)

      note: I am not an iPhone user, I don't know how all that works, just guessing here

      • by Stuart Gibson (544632) on Wednesday June 03, 2009 @04:15AM (#28193231) Homepage

        iTunes music store has explicit warnings for naughty words and parents can block access to those.

        The App store doesn't yet have them for anything but games (age ratings are coming for all apps in 3.0) so they are assuming all ages have access to all content. A number of apps have been rejected with the advisory that they are resubmitted when 3.0 is live as they can then be flagged as R rated or similar.

    • by fractoid (1076465)
      I'd say that in terms of (1), the reason is more along the line of being scared that some parent will buy their kid an iPhone and then sue when the kid looks up porn. Honestly, though, I think you're onto something with (2). It really annoys me, because (even as a diehard PC user who converted to Linux two years ago, Mac evangelists annoy me nearly as much as evangelical Christian fundies) the iPhone is a damn sexy piece of hardware. Problem is, I don't want to buy one if I'm not going to be able to run wha
      • Well, yeah, that was what I meant when I said "deathly afraid of the Think Of The Chiiildren wackos." I still think the "fundie on a crusade" possibility is a little more likely, though, because anyone who is capable of using a web browser knows how much potentially offensive material is easily available; someone who's that afraid of getting sued would be well advised not to work for a company that distributes any internet-enabled applications of any kind, which of course Apple does.

        • by hairyfeet (841228)

          I don't know, to me it smells a little more like "corner the market" BS. After all, if Apple Inc comes right out and says "You can have any app you want on the app store, except for any market we want to own" then the iPhone developers will get pissy and quit developing for them. This way they can say "Doesn't meet the standards" and then a couple of months later come up with their OWN app that "does meet the standards" which of course isn't hard when you are the ones who decides what those standards are an

      • I think you're right, but still that seems pretty damn stupid considering that the same parent can buy their kid an iMac which doesn't have any of these restrictions on what can be installed. What makes the iPhone so different from the iMac? I can't say I see it.

        • by fractoid (1076465)
          Ah - what makes it different is that stupid parents think that an iPhone is a gameboy with a landline magically attached to it. It's the same problem we saw when kids realised that their PSP or Nintendo DS could be used to wirelessly download porn from the privacy of their own rooms.
    • by Weezul (52464)

      You see, the App Store is the whole problem. Indeed, the App Store would be a violation of anti-trust law if Apple had any market share.

  • This is why (Score:2, Insightful)

    .. I am actually happy that Microsoft dominates the market over Apple. Microsoft is bad enough, but Apple is a control-freak of a company :/

    Of course, when the year of linux-on-the-desktop-comes, it will all be better. Right?

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Kaitnieks (823909)
      I think they're both control-freaks. The difference is that stuff released by Microsoft is pretty open at first. Later they realize - oops, we should have implemented some kind of control mechanism. They try to add DRMs, genuine validations and loads of other shit with poor resluts. It's different with Apple because the first thing they write is the control, be it hardware or software, and only then they build a product around it.
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Snarf You (1285360)

        poor resluts

        There's a joke in here somewhere... but I'm far too sober to find it.

        • by Ihmhi (1206036)

          poor resluts

          Resluts?

          Sluts who were reformed and then went back to the gig?

          Some kind of quantum double slut?

          Sexy, trashy fans of the CGI cartoon Reboot?

    • Of course, when the year of linux-on-the-desktop-comes, it will all be better. Right?

      Apparently it has [theage.com.au], but according to The Age it isn't Linux.

    • by _Sprocket_ (42527)

      .. I am actually happy that Microsoft dominates the market over Apple. Microsoft is bad enough, but Apple is a control-freak of a company :/

      Of course, when the year of linux-on-the-desktop-comes, it will all be better. Right?

      I'd be happy if neither dominated the market. Let everyone have to worry about screw-ups like this leading to real damage to the bottom line. Companies who dominate markets tend to get a buffer from these kinds of mistakes / actions.

      That's what makes Linux interesting. It's not about Linux domination so much as Linux being ubiquitous. Market domination with Linux won't come along AS "Linux." It'll be something like RedHat, Ubuntu, or Android. It will be a company name and a company's product line.

    • All I know is any time I wanted to try out apps I wrote myself on my PocketPC or give them to someone to install, I never had any trouble.

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      Given that we've already seen Android phones hacked to run Debian alongside Android, enabling the installation and operation of essentially arbitrary programs, Tivos hacked to have larger disks and to eliminate other restrictions, Linksys (and most everyone else's) routers reinstalled to have vastly more functionality and more correct operation, and of course the ability to turn most personal computers into a Free/free-softwared workstation powerhouse with the literally dozens to hundreds of Linux distribut

  • Modus operandi (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ianare (1132971) on Wednesday June 03, 2009 @01:07AM (#28192325)

    Apple tries to suppress something it doesn't like, in a way sure to show everyone what a bunch of pricks they are, and yet no one will do a thing about it. News at 11.

    • You are just showing your lack of understanding (and ironically you are voted insightful). If you were trying to develop and popularize a cell phone platform that is trying to appeal to kids and young teenagers, would you not try to also have some sort of content rating or control so that parents of those kids (who are actually buying the devices for their kids) will have a peace of mind knowing that their "precious (or is that special) little ones" are not viewing obscene content, but can continue to live

    • It kind of amazes me that the same people who scream "Well don't use Windows/Linux/whatever if it doesn't do what you want!" are the same ones who do nothing but whine and continue to use a product solely based on its label and cool factor.

      There ARE other options out there.

  • Fuck apple!

  • by Toonol (1057698) on Wednesday June 03, 2009 @01:28AM (#28192445)
    I managed to avoid the whole Apple experience; never bought an iPod, never bought a song from iTunes, never had any desire to get an iPhone. I'm feeling a bit relieved. The whole thing feels like a trap. If I had a thousand bucks tied up in all this interconnected web of apps, platforms, and media, with it's seemingly ever-constricting chains, I'd be pretty irritated.

    Lesson I've learned? Always buy IP-violating, unregulated, cheap Chinese knockoffs.
    • by LanMan04 (790429)

      Don't discount iTunes because of the iTunes Store nonsense. It's a great music manager, especially because it exports an XML file with all songs that can be read by other applications.

      Nice music management app. I have 28GB of music in my iTunes collection, not one of them bought from the iTunes music store.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by X0563511 (793323)

        You know what else makes a good media manager?

        A filesystem.

        You know, a system that manages files? Like media files?

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Bake (2609)

          Really? You have a file system that allows me to group together songs that I have previously rated at 4 stars and I haven't listened to for 3-4 weeks and have it order them by the year their respective album was released? Wow.

          • You don't use OS X? If you do, then yes, your filessystem (coupled with spotlight and a few metadata entries) will do all those things and more.

            I guess different people are getting different value out of their OS X investment.

      • Why do people seem to be willing to accept abusive behaviour from technology companies that they would not accept from any other provider of goods or services?

        I got tired of being ignored, and even antagonized, by Apple when it came to the iPod. So I sold mine on Ebay and bought something that works with Linux without having to wait for somebody to crack the asinine encryption the controls freaks at Apple insist in throwing at us,

        Honestly, there are many music managers out there, why give Apple the satisfac

      • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

        by julesh (229690)

        Don't discount iTunes because of the iTunes Store nonsense. It's a great music manager, especially because it exports an XML file with all songs that can be read by other applications.

        M3U files have a trivially simple format, and were standard a long time before itunes came on the scene. What benefits does itunes XML file offer over and above this format?

        And while we're at it, what's the deal with ipods needing a database of files (in a non-obvious format that's difficult to work with) in order to be able

    • Yes, I much prefer my Zune!
    • Yeah, it is a trap. Thank gawd for Rockbox.

  • "We might as well all become communists... Like Stallman!"

    ROFLMAO!

  • I suppose this could all be fixed by having more than one app reviewer look at each app before approval/denial. That could raise costs a little but at the same time apple faces a bigger risk should any single employee approve something truly objectionable. I can't imagine 2 random apple app reviewers would both find these silly reasons to reject apps, so it seems to me the easiest solution to have multiple internal reviewers, I can't believe they don't do this already...

  • by Planar (126167) on Wednesday June 03, 2009 @02:39AM (#28192789)

    Publish all your contents under a license that says "you are not allowed to read/view/listen to this for purposes of reviewing or censorship", then sue their ass off when they do censor it. That would put the DMCA to good use, for once.

  • by 91degrees (207121)
    loop_point:
    Apple rejects an app for stupid reasons.
    This will spread across the web.
    Apple will looks bad.
    Apple will "reconsider" and accept the app.
    Lots of people will completely miss the point and think it's all okay.
    Apple will then reject another app for stupid reasons.
    goto loop_point;
  • by Kupfernigk (1190345) on Wednesday June 03, 2009 @03:33AM (#28193067)
    Apple introduces special i-sunglasses that go completely opaque when near a beach, in case there are any topless women around (not sold in Europe).
  • by meist3r (1061628) on Wednesday June 03, 2009 @03:39AM (#28193101)
    Or Steve Jobs will lose his temper ... turtle necks are the new uniforms. Apples the new swastikas ... want proof: http://www.apfelfront.de/propaganda.html [apfelfront.de]
  • by Master of Transhuman (597628) on Wednesday June 03, 2009 @04:14AM (#28193225) Homepage

    And every one of those fucking idiots uses the word fuck on a fucking hourly basis and the hypocritical fucks can't stand to see the word fuck in a fucking RSS feed?

    FUCK 'EM IF THEY CAN'T TAKE A FUCKING JOKE!

    • by quarrel (194077)

      FUCK 'EM IF THEY CAN'T TAKE A FUCKING JOKE!

      If you can't take a joke from Brad Templeton [netfunny.com] you've definitely got issues ...

      rhf - the net's oldest blog (at least if you buy into Brad's theory ;) CmdrTaco might object...

      --Q

  • by FranTaylor (164577) on Wednesday June 03, 2009 @04:21AM (#28193265)

    Apple is pushing this as a way for companies to invest in some software effort and gain some practical results, but how can you expect a company to commit resources to developing an iPhone app if it can be denied for such petty and silly reasons? The best-laid plans of an entire corporation can be wrecked by the petty actions of someone outside of their control? Really not a sound business strategy. Why not just develop for the Google phone where you don't need permission or clearance from anyone?

  • If it weren't for such news, I would believe that NOBODY in the entire u.s.a. EVER had used the word "fuck"...
    Making kids believe this word didn't exist seems to be the life-task for too many people there... you even feel pressured not to use it in online discussions although everyone uses it all the time in offline discussions...
  • I think this is appropriate.

    http://daringfireball.net/2009/05/diary_of_an_app_store_reviewer [daringfireball.net]

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