My app is pretty cool; it is called “Msnbc.com Cartoons” and it features a real time news feed of political cartoons by top cartoonists from around the world. My app will be supported and promoted by msnbc.com along with their other iPhone apps … that is, if Apple approves it.
It seems I have plenty to worry about. Apps for the iPhone have been multiplying at an exponential rate, with over 100,000 now approved. Developers are looking to strike it rich with the next “iFart,” but as the sheer numbers or apps explodes, the chance of an app being a hit becomes more remote and frustration with Apple’s app approval process grows. Developers have to invest in creating a finished app before submitting it to Apple, which can arbitrarily trash the investments and hopes of aspiring developers — as happened to a friend of mine this week.
My buddy Tom Richmond, the brilliant Mad Magazine artist, just finished drawing 544 caricatures of members of congress for an app called “Bobble Rep.” The app works as a directory of every congressman, displaying their contact information by ZIP code or by the GPS location of the iPhone user. Shake the iPhone and the rep’s head “bobbles.” It is a cute app, and the caricatures are not unflattering. Apple rejected “Bobble Rep.”
A letter from Apple explained the rejection:
“… We’ve reviewed Bobble Rep – 111th Congress Edition and determined that we cannot post this version of your iPhone application to the App Store because it contains content that ridicules public figures and is in violation of Section 3.3.14 from the iPhone Developer Program License Agreement which states:
‘Applications may be rejected if they contain content or materials of any kind (text, graphics, images, photographs, sounds, etc.) that in Apple’s reasonable judgment may be found objectionable, for example, materials that may be considered obscene, pornographic, or defamatory.’
A screenshot of this issue has been attached for your reference.”
At the top right is a screenshot of the objectionable image that Apple attached to their rejection letter.
Ray Griggs, the producer of the “Bobble Rep” app, suffered a blow as he saw his investment in programming and in 544 Tom Richmond cartoons arbitrarily flushed away. Griggs writes,
“I wonder if they saw my Web site (www.iwantyourmoney.net) that promotes the iPhone app and rejected the app because I am making a Republican Documentary. Are they trying to shut me down? (Just speculation. However, it is uncanny that the “offensive” page image they sent me is of the California reps.) Is there anything on this page that could possibly be found offensive?”
My cartoonist buddy Tom Richmond writes,
“Clearly this app does not ‘ridicule public figures’ and is violating nothing, but Apple has decided the world must be protected from the insidious subversiveness this would force upon the public and the brutal, heinous ridicule that my cruel, cruel caricatures would subject these politicians to.
Hard to believe that anybody could be this blind. Maybe they just have a monkey doing the approval of their apps, and he throws a dart at a dartboard with “approved” and “rejected” targets on it and whatever it hits is the fate of that app. That would explain how they could approve an app with a cartoon baby picture and when you shake the phone hard enough the baby dies. Yes, that one got through only to be yanked after some outraged people complained, but no way are a bunch of flame-throwing caricatures going to get through!!!
Prolific iPhone app developer Brian Stormont has this advice for hopeful app applicants:
“Don’t make any jokes about political figures, past or present, in either your app or the description in iTunes. Apple will most likely reject your app.”
Apple would seem to be a bipartisan offendee. App developer Brandyn Brosemer reports that his “iBush” app was rejected for the same reason. The app was a collection of actual George W. Bush quotes that the reader could scroll through.
Another Apple political app rejection is “MyShoe” which allowed users to throw shoes at president Bush.
Studies show that people use the iPhone differently than other mobile devices — they read news content on the iPhone and tend not to do so on other phones. The iPhone’s market share for news and opinion is dominant, while all other phones have an insignificant market share. Although any publisher can decide what content he wants in his own publication, Apple’s phone-news monopoly brings with it a public trust and responsibility in controlling content for a whole category of media.
And with my own political cartoons app review dragging on, I’m still holding my breath.
Turning blue now.
Daryl Cagle is the cartoonist for msnbc.com. He runs the Political Cartoonists Index Web site and distributes the work of editorial cartoonists from around the world to more than 800 newspapers through his Cagle Cartoons syndicate. Read more from his blog at blog.cagle.com/daryl.