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Apple's Schiller Responds To iPhone Dictionary App Fiasco 200

Posted by Soulskill
from the not-so-sinister-after-all dept.
beef curtains writes "Phil Schiller, Apple senior vice president of worldwide product marketing, responded by e-mail to a blog post discussing Apple's rejection of a dictionary app. If Schiller's e-mail is to be believed, it offers an interesting perspective on this whole issue. He said, 'The issue that the App Store reviewers did find with the Ninjawords application is that it provided access to other more vulgar terms than those found in traditional and common dictionaries, words that many reasonable people might find upsetting or objectionable. ... The Ninjawords developer then decided to filter some offensive terms in the Ninjawords application and resubmit it for approval for distribution in the App Store before parental controls were implemented. Apple did not ask the developer to censor any content in Ninjawords, the developer decided to do that themselves in order to get to market faster. ... You are correct that the Ninjawords application should not have needed to be censored while also receiving a 17+ rating, but that was a result of the developers' actions, not Apple's.' PC World has an article summarizing the drama-to-date, the blog post, and Schiller's response."
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Apple's Schiller Responds To iPhone Dictionary App Fiasco

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  • Re:surprise (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Bredero (1154131) on Friday August 07, 2009 @07:07PM (#28991915)
    Because a dictionary getting any age rating is a good idea how?
  • Nothing new (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 07, 2009 @07:09PM (#28991929)
    Apple didn't force him to censor the app. The developer "voluntarily" did it. Of course, it was his only option if he wanted to get it published...
  • Re:Nothing new (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kumiorava (95318) on Friday August 07, 2009 @07:17PM (#28991989)

    Published before the parental controls were implemented... it's a big difference. I don't agree with parental controls, but some people do and to keep those people in peace and using the service we all have to tolerate some inconveniences.

  • I don't get it... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Jugalator (259273) on Friday August 07, 2009 @07:17PM (#28991993) Journal

    A dictionary corrects misspelled words, it doesn't write them.

  • Back atcha (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 07, 2009 @07:17PM (#28991997)

    It provided access to other more vulgar terms than those found in traditional and common dictionaries, words that many reasonable people might find upsetting or objectionable.

    words I often find upsetting and objectionable:

    censorship
    groupthink
    DRM
    paternalism
    authoritarianism
    proprietary
    patronizing

    Thus I have an Android phone. Though it had to be rooted too. But at least when I try to install a program, it asks for my permission rather than the other way around.

  • Rating (Score:1, Insightful)

    by sonicmerlin (1505111) on Friday August 07, 2009 @07:18PM (#28992011)
    The program also included a feature that crippled the "suggestion" function in such a way that made it was impossible for someone to look up a vulgar word unless they knew what that word was and typed it out in its entirety. Shouldn't that be enough to merit acceptance? Free speech anyone?
  • Cause and Effect (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Aladrin (926209) on Friday August 07, 2009 @07:22PM (#28992047)

    The developers may have 'chosen' to censor their work, but only because it was the only way their work could exist at all. That's still censorship.

    Apple claiming that the developers chose to do it is like saying someone chose to jump in front of a bullet that was aimed at their child. Yes, they chose to... But it's hardly their fault.

  • by Chyeld (713439) <chyeldNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Friday August 07, 2009 @07:27PM (#28992083)

    The dictionary was based on Wiktionary [wiktionary.org]. So I would imagine it could quite possibly contain the fabled seven words and many others. Regardless, it's disingenuous to say that you aren't censoring apps and that the developer did it voluntarily, when the actual truth is you were rejecting the app and the developer had the choice of waiting for an undetermined amount of time (till you actually implmented the partenal controls) or 'self-censoring'.

    That's like saying, "No, we didn't force a confession out of him, we just kept hitting him till he felt like talking."

  • I Call Bullshit (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 07, 2009 @07:33PM (#28992125)

    Schiller's response is an attempt to evade the issue that Apple censored the application in the first place. Turning around and trying to claim that the developer censored themselves after being censored is an expert spin, but complete bullshit nonetheless.

  • by interkin3tic (1469267) on Friday August 07, 2009 @07:41PM (#28992165)

    Much like the Kama Sutra rejection, this brings home how farcical Apple trying to be gatekeeper and arbiter of taste on the app store really is. They should give up now before their reputation sinks under the weight of their hypocrisy - every week I hear of a new stupid and arbitrary decision by their app store reviewers.

    Looking at the parents group response games like beer pong [gamepolitics.com] or "Madworld" [nydailynews.com] got on the wii, I have a little sympathy. Neither game was marketed at kids. Parents groups seemed more upset with Nintendo than the publishers, citing reasons that boiled down to "OMFG, KIDS PLAY THE WII, HOW COULD YOU NOT CENSOR THIS NINTENDO?!?"

    Granted, doing stupid things to avoid upsetting stupid people is stupid, but they are a company, not an organization dedicated to freedom of expression. They'd be reasonable to think that if they don't maintain some standards, parents groups would fly off the handle, boycott it, and they'd be losing out on their most profitable market: kids. It's somewhat positive that at least now they would have published it rather than just quashing it forever.

    Naturally, the real solution should be parents acting like parents, but naturally pigs will fly before these groups put responsibility on their members.

  • by MartinSchou (1360093) on Friday August 07, 2009 @07:42PM (#28992177)

    Obviously the dictionary he's using has a rather different definition of reasonable people than mine does.

    Mine says reasonable people aren't upset by words, especially the ones they write themselves. Reasonable people also have no expectation of going through life without encountering something they might find offensive, as they know that that idea itself is offensive to some people.

    Why can't we, as a group, start using the names of idiots like that as slang for 'offensive' things? Like ...

    Schiller - verb: To use ones tongue to clean a toilet bowl.
    Intelligent Design - noun: The act of writing ones name in faeces.

  • Re:Nothing new (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bmo (77928) on Friday August 07, 2009 @07:43PM (#28992187)

    Parental controls for dictionaries is stupid on its face.

    Yes, just what we need, parents denying the use of dictionaries to their children.

    Good troll. 10/10 Would Rage Again.

    --
    BMO

  • by Black Pete (222858) on Friday August 07, 2009 @08:01PM (#28992295)

    If the dictionary app was rejected on the basis that it proved access to dirty words, does this mean that Safari is the next to go? After all, it only provides access to the entire Internet, where I'm sure a few dirty words and even porn could be found.

  • Re:surprise (Score:4, Insightful)

    by dotgain (630123) on Friday August 07, 2009 @08:03PM (#28992311) Homepage Journal
    Just FYI, the iPod Touch is pretty much an iPhone minus the Phone, GPS and Compass*, and can run most of the same apps without any monthly cellular cost.

    *I've probably left a couple of inconsequential things out, it doesn't matter.

  • reasonable people? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by jjeffries (17675) on Friday August 07, 2009 @08:08PM (#28992347)
    "words that many reasonable people might find upsetting or objectionable"

    These are not reasonable people. These are people looking through a dictionary in order to be offended.

    Fuck those people. Shit piss fuck cunt cocksucker motherfuckers.
  • Re:surprise (Score:4, Insightful)

    by interkin3tic (1469267) on Friday August 07, 2009 @08:13PM (#28992385)

    How old is the youngest IPhone user you've seen? For me its 15. No elementary school kid needs to be running around with a $100/mo bill and an expensive phone. By 12, most kids already know these words. Who is this censorship for?

    It's for two groups of people: parents groups who might protest this despite it being quite far from a real issue as you pointed out, and Apple's PR department that would rather nip it in the bud than face what is apperantly impossible: trying to sell a product through parents to their kids while telling the parents that they're responsible for being parents rather than the product.

  • by bonch (38532) on Friday August 07, 2009 @08:15PM (#28992399)

    The developers may have 'chosen' to censor their work, but only because it was the only way their work could exist at all. That's still censorship.

    Did you even read the post? That's not what happened.

  • To Recap (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Aim Here (765712) on Friday August 07, 2009 @08:21PM (#28992445)

    I apologise in advance for the bad language but in the interests of having a complete public record on Slashdot, here's a list of the words and phrases that Apple censors from their iPhone dictionaries:
    ---
    Reality Distortion Field
    egomaniac
    vendor lockin
    exploding iPod
    making unfreedom hip
    iCon
    backdated stock options
    Lisa
    fanboyism
    ---
    There you go. I feel dirty now, and shall wash my keyboard out with soap.

  • Re:surprise (Score:2, Insightful)

    by sbeckstead (555647) on Friday August 07, 2009 @08:23PM (#28992461) Homepage Journal
    Your problem is that you probably don't live near enough or don't know the wingnuts that ARE requiring this kind of censorship. Sadly your education and intelligence are sufficient to realize that this kind of censorship is both useless and offensive to the rest of the sane thinking world. But since the bible belt does have a lot of people in it and we want their money too...

    To date I fail to see any average good done by any religion in the world. At one time or another they have impeded the development of civilization, technology or social interaction on a less than war like level. But if that's your thing, go right ahead and practice. I'm tired of having other peoples standards and morals shoved down my throat.
    Such is the world we live in.
  • Re:Nothing new (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dahamma (304068) on Friday August 07, 2009 @08:30PM (#28992525)

    Yeah, but it's a bit different when the "dictionary" is, for example, Webster's vs. Urban Dictionary. I don't remember seeing the definition of a "Cleveland Steamer" in the former...

  • Only If... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Nom du Keyboard (633989) on Friday August 07, 2009 @08:31PM (#28992527)

    the Ninjawords application is that it provided access to other more vulgar terms than those found in traditional and common dictionaries, words that many reasonable people might find upsetting or objectionable.

    Only if you look them up, fool!

  • by PCM2 (4486) on Friday August 07, 2009 @08:39PM (#28992611) Homepage

    And that's different...how? Is the RAM of my iPhone somehow "soiled" because the bad Mr. App Store allowed doo-doo words to get on it? The application would work the same whether it stored a local copy or not.

  • by edalytical (671270) on Friday August 07, 2009 @08:42PM (#28992643)

    Technically, a dictionary maps the definitions to words. What good would a "list" of definitions be? You need a way to look them up.

  • Re:Nothing new (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 07, 2009 @08:47PM (#28992677)

    More exactly, the developer says he didn't know when the promised OS upgrade that enabled parental controls would be released (turned out it was about a month) and wanted the dictionary in the App Store ASAP. Which seems a reasonable decision in terms of cash flow, and in this particular case led the developer (under some financial duress, no doubt, if the examination was so protracted) to self-censorship.

    Apple needs to get App Store reviewing organized on a professional basis. I'm sure the explosion of developer interest caught them off-guard and the current system just grew.

  • by fluch (126140) on Friday August 07, 2009 @08:56PM (#28992725)

    Does Safari need a 17+ age limit to be used? Will it be removed from the iPhone and iPod Touch? From Mac OS X? It can access even darker places outside there in the virtual world! Oh my godness! :-O

  • OKAY (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Shivetya (243324) on Friday August 07, 2009 @09:10PM (#28992805) Homepage Journal

    but can I zing the next person who decries the fact the parents are not being responsible for the activities of their children?

    Parents cannot win here; Slashdot or the world in general. Because on one hand we have people who pummel them for every inaction and then turn around and berate them for any infraction their kid does.

    Parental Controls do not affect those who do not use them. They however do affect what those of use responsible enough to adhere to a self described sense of morals but live in a world where such control is considered an infringement on some mysterious right thereby imposing such control on us outside of our domain.

    In other words, either provide the means necessary for parents or anyone in general to filter the content relevant to themselves or those in the protection else suffer the decisions of others over the content you have available.

    Parents would have an easier time if people quit moving the line.

  • Re:OKAY (Score:3, Insightful)

    by bmo (77928) on Friday August 07, 2009 @09:20PM (#28992855)

    Nice false dichotomy there.

    There is a difference between putting parental controls on dictionaries and on places like 4chan.

    --
    BMO

  • by schon (31600) on Friday August 07, 2009 @09:24PM (#28992871)

    Are you a parent?

    I am.

    in many of these cases I think the parents *are* acting like parents when they complain.

    No, they're not, they're acting like children when they complain.

    I know many slashdotters live in some fantasy world where parents are able to monitor their children every waking hour, but it's not reality.

    OK, so now we know that you're not just a parent, you're a bad parent.

    Because if you were a good parent, you wouldn't want to be monitoring your children every waking hour, nor expecting someone else to do it for you.

    Being a good parent involves teaching your children your values so that you don't *have* to monitor them.

  • by interkin3tic (1469267) on Friday August 07, 2009 @09:40PM (#28992969)

    I am, and in many of these cases I think the parents *are* acting like parents when they complain. I know many slashdotters live in some fantasy world where parents are able to monitor their children every waking hour, but it's not reality.

    I know that, everyone knows that. And I had hoped that everyone would realize the folowing: if something is a concern to you, like your kid reading dirty words in a dictionary, then you should deal with it yourself, not make everyone else deal with it.

    I know you have a lot of chores to do, but it takes about 5 minutes to do any one of a number of things to remedy the situation on your end:
    -take the Ipod away from him
    -trust him not to download it
    -don't give him a credit card
    -don't give him the password to itunes
    -talk to him about dirty words
    -realize he already knows them
    -wash his mouth out with soap if he uses them

    The world doesn't have a responsibility to sanitize itself because you have issues with what your kid sees reguardless of how much free time you have.

  • Re:Nothing new (Score:4, Insightful)

    by dirk (87083) <dirk@one.net> on Friday August 07, 2009 @10:05PM (#28993123) Homepage

    There very well may have been other examples that were sent to the developer. That doesn't change the fact that those standard swear words were sent to him as at minimum part of the reason it was being rejected. These words are not objectionable in the other dictionary applications, so why were they sent to the developer as examples of objectionable content?

  • Re:OKAY (Score:5, Insightful)

    by StellarFury (1058280) on Friday August 07, 2009 @10:10PM (#28993141)

    Parents would have an easier time if more of them did their jobs. No disrespect to your parenting skills, personally - I have no idea how you parent your children, and won't pretend to - but "parents cannot win" because most of them suck at their job or refuse to do it, and have persistently cried to the government or third-parties that "it's hard" and to "do it for them." So even the good parents can't win.

    Parental controls DO affect people who don't use them. What the fuck do you think the FCC is? The ESRB? The MPAA Ratings Board? That shit is, in essence, "parental controls." They say what gets sold or shown where.

    Don't get me wrong, I don't think these organizations shouldn't exist. But they overstep their bounds all the time, and yes, I'm going to blame overprotective, whiny parents just as much as I'm going to blame puritanical religious zealots or stodgy politicians or whoever else is busting down freedom of expression.

  • Re:Nothing new (Score:3, Insightful)

    by FlyingSquidStudios (1031284) on Friday August 07, 2009 @10:43PM (#28993283) Homepage
    And not counting the fact that the old testament was originally written in Hebrew and Aramaic and the New Testament was originally written in Greek... and it remained in Greek for the Greek Orthodox Church. And, of course, the Coptics translated it into their Egyptian language pretty quickly too...
  • Re:surprise (Score:3, Insightful)

    by node 3 (115640) on Friday August 07, 2009 @11:25PM (#28993487)

    Because a dictionary getting any age rating is a good idea how?

    Apple isn't doing this because they think children shouldn't read dictionaries. In fact, any person of any age can run a 17+ app. The only limits are:

    1. Parents can lock them out.
    2. You get a warning, so that if you become offended, it's your own damned fault, not Apple's.

    From Apple's point of view, this has nothing to do with dictionaries, it has to do with having an age rating system to begin with. Once you have such a system, and if the system is based, in part, on "vulgar" words, then dictionaries containing such words end up with an appropriate (under the rating criteria, at least) rating.

    The only way to really end this whole mess is to do away with age ratings altogether, which is incompatible with Apple's intent for concerned parents (read: repressed fuckwads) to be able to buy their products without fear that it may despoil the minds of their children.

    Ratings systems like these are inherently problematic, but given that, Apple really did act reasonably in this situation.

  • Full of iShit (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kiddailey (165202) on Friday August 07, 2009 @11:48PM (#28993617) Homepage

    Dear Steve and Steve:

    Seriously, this is beyond ridiculous:

    * Anyone can receive e-mail that contains profanity and porn. Please remove MobileMail.app from everyone's iPhone.
    * Anyone can access or stumble upon profanity, porn and more while web browsing. Please remove MobileSafari.app from everyone's iPhone.
    * Anyone can download and purchase songs full of profanity and sexual references. Please remove the iTunes Music Store from everyone's iPhone.

    Until you remove those three apps as well, it's obvious that you're full of iShit.

  • by msimm (580077) on Saturday August 08, 2009 @12:22AM (#28993745) Homepage
    To date I fail to see any average good done by any religion in the world.

    Then what do you believe in if you don't believe in yourself?

    I'm not religious myself but I fail to see a belief system that really addresses the underlying philosophic and moral dilemmas and some people need comfort or answers, for those people faith might work.

    We need a philosophy renaissance to specifically address the needs we've so far only successfully addressed with religion.
  • Re:surprise (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MeNeXT (200840) on Saturday August 08, 2009 @12:30AM (#28993777)

    There were no parental controls when the app was submitted and there was no indication of a release date for parental controls.
     

    Parents need to raise there children! Don't give the child a credit card and make sure you know what they load on the ipods. If for any reason anyone here thinks that parental controls will stop children from accessing inappropriate content then I have news for them... I have yet to see parental controls work. What parents need to do is raise their children. Yes I am a parent of three and all three are capable of bypassing the parental controls on almost all the devices. Because they can read!

     

    When I was young ALL of this material was available. P0rn is not new. Dictionaries were always available. Encyclopedias had pictures. This is just the tame stuff. Talk to your child and communicate with them. Teach them how and what is important. Don't ever expect technology to do your job.

     

    As for Apple. They have no explanation as to why they refused so they are inventing an excuse. Hindsight is 20/20 and Apple is offering a plausible explanation unless you ask yourself this. If the developer was told that it would be approved in 30 to 60 days why would the developer spend extra time and money correcting something that will be corrected?

     

    Nothing prevented Apple from posting parental warnings on iTunes on "adult" material. Children are not issued credit cards therefore children should not have an iTunes account!!!! Therefore a parent is required to make the purchase! If Apple was concerned about the clients "children" they had every means possible to WARN the potential client that it contained ADULT material. If Apple is so concerned about the children then why don't they setup a children's iTunes store? Apple is not the peoples keeper and if you believe Apple's excuse then they are doing a horrible job because what I can get on my iPhone and my children's iPod, parental controls or not, is a lot worse than a few vulgar definitions. I am pretty sure most of us can too.
     

  • by babyrat (314371) on Saturday August 08, 2009 @01:57AM (#28994103)

    Or is there some other explanation where Apple's actions look justified?

    How about "it's their store, they can sell what they want?"

    or should we complain that the christian book store should be selling nudie magazines because they sell other books?

    I'd even hazard a guess that it is covered in their guidelines that the developer received before he even started writing the app for the iPhone.

  • Re:Nothing new (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 08, 2009 @02:31AM (#28994215)

    cenorship

    I see you have been denied a dictionary by your parents...

  • by EsbenMoseHansen (731150) on Saturday August 08, 2009 @03:30AM (#28994421) Homepage

    the needs we've so far only successfully addressed with religion

    And what needs would those be?

    I can't think of any "need" which can ONLY be addressed with religion.

    The need to built pointy buildings unused for 6 out of 7 days?

  • by shutdown -p now (807394) on Saturday August 08, 2009 @04:04AM (#28994531) Journal

    How about "it's their store, they can sell what they want?"

    The question wasn't for an explanation of how Apple's actions are legal - we know that they are. The question was about Apple's actions being justified - and they clearly aren't in this case.

    or should we complain that the christian book store should be selling nudie magazines because they sell other books?

    No, but I don't see why a Christian book store should ban all books which ever mention sex or even hint at it - especially when it's not the purpose of the book. After all, they'd have to ban the Bible if they went for it.

    And, most certainly, if said Christian book store already sells one nude magazine (because its publisher is the owner of the store), it has no moral standing to refuse to sell others. In this case, the application was held back from the store for doing exactly the same thing as several other applications that were approved.

  • Re:Nothing new (Score:4, Insightful)

    by davester666 (731373) on Saturday August 08, 2009 @04:07AM (#28994539) Journal

    >But, again, Apple did not require the app to be censored, that was a completely voluntary choice of the developer.

    Yes, by that standard.

    "You can either remove these specific words, OR you can go out of business (which was the other option he was given)".

    "You can say whatever you want, but if the gov't doesn't like it, you'll get shot". I guess this also isn't censorship, because it's your choice.

  • by shutdown -p now (807394) on Saturday August 08, 2009 @04:07AM (#28994541) Journal

    Likewise, I think it's perfectly reasonable for Apple to limit the sort of content in their app store. I think the rating system is a better way, but in the absence of the rating system, I don't think it's inappropriate to refuse apps that contain profanity.

    I am almost certain that your kids already know the meaning of, and suitable circumstances for the use of, all the profane words that Apple was complaining about finding in this dictionary. At least, remembering my own childhood days, I know that we knew a lot of that kind of stuff far earlier than our parents figured that out. And I was a geeky, somewhat antisocial kind of guy - others have learned earlier than me.

  • Re:No one agrees? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 08, 2009 @07:48AM (#28995151)

    That is absurd.

    If my 10 year old child doesn't know how to use a dictionary online, there is no way I am going to buy him/her a 4-600 dollar cell phone. Furthermore, if I trust my kids to use the internet on their own, and have bought them an expensive cell phone with required internet access, they won't need my permission to download a free dictionary.

    I don't see how parents can be so irresponsible as to buy their children things that they demand not to be used.

It is better to give than to lend, and it costs about the same.

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