Why is Apple treating apps differently than movies and songs? - Macenstein

Why is Apple treating apps differently than movies and songs?

For quite a few years now Apple has been selling R-rated movies and sexually explicit songs on its iTunes store. In fact, half of the current Top 10 movies on iTunes are either Rated R or Unrated for scenes of nudity and sexual content.

Currently 20% of Apple’s top 100 iTunes music chart are labeled as “explicit”, due to profanity and strong sexual material.

Despite having the same ratings and parental controls in place for Applications as they do for movies and music, two days ago Apple inexplicably decided to begin pulling all apps from the app store that contain “objectionable” sexual material. One developer, jonaeu from Chilifresh, whose “Wobble” app was pulled (despite not containing any nudity or even images of women) actually called Apple and received the following outline for what types of content are now too sexually explicit for the app store:

1. No images of women in bikinis (Ice skating tights are not OK either)

2. No images of men in bikinis! (I didn’t ask about Ice Skating tights for men)

3. No skin (he seriously said this) (I asked if a Burqa was OK, and the Apple guy got angry)

4. No silhouettes that indicate that Wobble can be used for wobbling boobs (yes – I am serious, we have to remove the silhouette in this pic)

5. No sexual connotations or innuendo: boobs, babes, booty, sex – all banned

6. Nothing that can be sexually arousing!! (I doubt many people could get aroused with the pic above but those puritanical guys at Apple must get off on pretty mundane things to find Wobble “overtly sexual!)

7. No apps will be approved that in any way imply sexual content (not sure how Playboy is still in the store, but …)

So what’s the deal? The cult horror classic “Last House on the Left” (iTunes link) has a very disturbing rape scene of teenage girls, but apparently that’s fine. However a shot of a woman wearing a bikini is now taboo. It’s fine for Apple to sell songs about “Fucking ho’s”, but a silhouette of a girl is now no longer allowed in an app.

What am I missing here?

Is it just me or isn’t letting “kids” buy movies and songs featuring celebrities that they idolize, acting out and speaking explicitly about sex far more damaging than allowing an app featuring CLOTHED WOMEN (albeit not wearing exactly snow pants) to be sold? Let me remind you, none of the apps being pulled by Apple currently contain ANY nudity, nor images of people having sex. In fact, despite having a 17+ rating, NONE of them actually contain anything that a PG-13 movie doesn’t. They simply show attractive women in bathing suits. However, there is full frontal nudity and full on sex available for sale in the iTunes Movie store.

Even more baffling is that, at the moment at least, Apple has allowed both the Playboy and Sport Illustrated apps to remain in the store. In fact, one developer who recently had his Bikini girl app “Box Score Babes” pulled posted this comparison between his app and the SI swimsuit app which is still available for sale.

The only logical explanation?

Well, actually I wouldn’t call it “logical”, but all I can think is that Apple is SEVERELY over-reacting to whatever bizarre letter writing campaign a couple of religious yokels have organized, and decided to clean up the app store to make their iPod touch more like “Nintendo”. Of course, this is a ridiculous argument as any kid old enough to have their own iTunes account (and credit card) knows how to type in “blow job” into the Safari browser and get ACTUAL sexual content on their iPod. In fact, most of them probably already know that Bing is even better for doing this. Whether we like it or not, this is not 1980, and seeing girls in bikinis with the word “Babes” under them is actually the tamest thing these kids are likely to encounter. To my mind, naming apps like these with the words “babes” or “boobs” is a good thing, as that is how they will appear on their parent;s credit cards.

But whatever the reason, Apple is really acting like a bunch of puritanical hypocrites here, and I just hope they come to their senses. And not just because we were 4 days away from releasing our official Mac Chick of the Month app.


… Although I’m not holding my breath. I can’t remember the last time Apple ever admitted one of their policies was wrong or changed their mind about any decision.

Oh, and by the way, you can buy the full 2 Live Crew discology on iTunes. And yes, the album covers feature girls in bikinis

25 Responses to “Why is Apple treating apps differently than movies and songs?”
  1. Mark Kerrigan says:

    I think you’re missing the fact that the App Store is a different brand compared to the iTunes store. I think it’s mainly to do with the iPad. Apple is trying to target the casual computer user with the iPad, and doesn’t want to tarnish the iPad’s reputation with sexual apps.

  2. Phil McKraken says:

    That’s actually a really good point about parental ratings. I assume buying an r-rated movie is just as easy/difficult as buying a 17 plus rated app, so what’s the deal here? What are the ratings for if not to keep the kids out? That’s all Apple or any content delivery system needs to do. The rest is up to parents.

    And who would buy a bikini girl app?

  3. Andrew Madson says:

    For me its not so much apple contradicting itself, it parents. For what ever reason some parents are ok with their child watching a violent movie, but then they believe its the video games that turn them into real life killers. I guess it the whole idea that video games and other user input devices are more interactive than movies and music…blah blah blah.

    I disagree with what Apple is doing but at the same time all it take is one pissed off mother that blames Apple for turning here son into a sex addict. Then you would have all this bad publicity towards apple with headlines like “Apple providing porn to children. ”

    Damned if you do and Damned if you don’t

  4. seearees says:

    they’ve essentially said the olympics are too sexually explicit. wtf

  5. Dave says:

    The difference in that example is the BoxScore babes are hotter than the skinny SI models.

  6. Alex says:

    Apple behaves between strong leftist company (green, political correctness, etc.) and confused conservative society (puritanism). They are banning people body worse than in Iran or stupidly persist on gender, race, whatever equality. And sorry for saing that but it would not surprise me that BoxScore was cancelled because of skin colour of their babes.

  7. AdamC says:

    There are two kind of parents one type wouldn’t mind their 5 year olds looking at smut and the other kind would mind so you know which kind you fall under.

    But then starting them young would have it advantages, eh doc?

  8. NotTellinYou says:

    I love your “WTF”! Nice! Anyway, this is no different than going into say Target! You won’t find magazines of “Bikini Babes” but you will find Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition. You won’t find porn but you will find CD’s with “Mature Lyrics”, and games with “Mature Content”.

    Look, the fact is this stuff has NEVER made sense from the movie ratings system to the situation at 7-Eleven to the above at Target. But that’s just the way it is! Get over it!

    The issue is worse for Apple in that unlike 7-Eleven or Target there is no cashier that can verify, or is supposed to verify, age. So you give your kid an iPhone and then what?

    What’s really sad is all these people that I guess can’t meet a real girl in a bikini and have to get an app to see them. Here’s a free clue! Go on line, download all the bikini girls you want, thousands if you like, load them into iPhoto and sync! There! You have more bikini girls than you ever imagined!

    Problem solved…and I didn’t even charge you 99 cents!

  9. Trx3 says:

    Looks like the App Store just lost about 20,000 apps because of this.

  10. iphonerulez says:

    The App Store is completely run by Apple. They may do as they please. Apple may have purposely over-reacted to remove said content and put get their lawyers or committee together and do a thorough review and modify guidelines. Apple is running a very high profile business and needs to make very high-level decisions that will affect the App Store in the long run. Since probably none of you run a business you don’t understand that sometimes there needs to be compromises. If Apple was contacted by a puritanical group, then maybe this is the best way they can show that something is being done right away. None of you know exactly how high up or what group made the protest about these apps.

    These types of apps make up a relatively tiny percent of the App Store and are hardly useful apps. If they did disappear, so what? I believe Apple’s early reaction will be modified after those type of apps undergo further review. I’ll bet if those apps are found to be rarely bought, they’ll likely stay gone. With Apple, it’s all about the money. As a long-term investor, I trust Apple’s decisions and I have faith that they’ll make a decision that doesn’t badly impact their bottom line or damage their mobile platform.

  11. lrd says:

    There’s a really simple solution for this: Make a category called NC 17 ( adult content)

  12. James Katt says:

    I agree with Apple.

    Removing overtly sexual apps improves the quality and taste level of the App store. And it greatly improves Apple’s competitive edge over its competitors.

    It makes it easier for parents to allow their children to use the App store without supervision.

    It makes it easier for school districts to purchase the iPad in massive quantities compared to Apple’s competition.

    It makes it easier for parents to purchase the iPod Touch for their children (which doubles the market for Apps compared to any of Apple’s competition).

    It makes it more acceptable for people in other countries to purchase the iPod Touch, iPad, and iPhone is massive quantities (e.g. China and Middle Eastern Countries – lands of the even more prude).

    The removal of overtly sexual apps will accelerate the purchases of the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad for Apple’s next generation – the children. Then as these children become adults, they will stay in the Apple fold.

  13. Joe Reed says:

    “WTF”????? I don’t have to read the article to know what you believe.

  14. It’s a business move for Apple. They’ll sell more iPod touches and iPads to school districts.

  15. Bignumone says:

    I wonder if it is because they could end up with all porn or near-porn in their ap store. Look at how popular porn is out in that web waste-land.
    Personally, I don’t know any people that would want it on their phone. It would be as crass as making porn your screen saver.

  16. Jonro says:

    I don’t like censorship, with very few exceptions (i.e., child pornography). Apple is in a different situation than most hardware vendors, as they are also the gatekeepers to the software. They don’t control what you put on your desktop Mac and I don’t agree with this heavy handed approach for their mobile hardware. A separate NC-17 app store would probably solve the problem because she should not be telling adults whether or not they should run bikini apps. In our society, the right to make these decisions is integral to being an adult.

  17. wayne says:

    It’s interesting to see how Frat-House the US has become in the last decade or so. It’s either anarchy or dictatorship, we’re told, and if you object to anything you’re a “puritanical hypocrite” or a “religious yokel”. I don’t think you spent a second thinking about either phrase, and you of course forgot to throw in “Nazi” and “repressed” as well.

    Good move on Apple’s part.

  18. BayouMan says:

    It’s not censorship in the fact that Apple isn’t telling the developer’s they can’t make their product. Apple is simply saying they won’t be responsible for selling it any longer in their store. Period.

    So, say up to 20,000 apps area affected. That leaves now about 120,000 apps that aren’t. They’re trying to make sure their own brand is synonymous with Family Friendly and not Porn Purveyors. There are plenty of avenues to pursue the latter, they just won’t have the Apple name on them. I’m sure some other PC vendors will be glad to pick up the slack and then take the heat. That’s fine. It’s just NOT Apple’s cup of tea. Big deal. Again, why is this a story? Oh, because they decided to clean up their act and do something about something they don’t like being associated with.

    If only other entities would do that. To borrow a song title from Cowboy Mouth, “I choose to walk away.”

  19. Great Post. Our team created and owns the Boxscore Babes app. Its not so much about changing your policy in making business decisions. It comes down to why don’t these same rules apply to the Playboy app or the SI Swimsuit app?


  20. NotTellinYou says:

    Hey Tony!

    The same reason you can’t get a “babes” magazine at Target but you can get SI Swimsuit.

    Sorry…your smut gravy train has ended!

  21. Bob says:

    While I’m all for attractive women in beach attire, there’s absolutely nothing hypocritical about Apple banning them in the App store but not in the iTunes store.

    Both the music industry and the movie industry already have established ratings systems with familiar and well-understood ratings. [At least in the USA] it’s clearly understood what is meant by an “R” or “PG” rating—and that rating system is copyrighted and therefore could not be used by Apple in the App Store. Apple does, in fact, reflect these ratings systems in the iTunes store.

    In contrast, the App store has no outside review board to develop a ratings system, explain it to developers and customers, and to work with developers who wish to challenge or change the rating received by their product. Because of the nature of the App store a review board and system of this nature really isn’t feasible. Thus, we’re left with having Apple be the arbiter of taste and culture (such as it is) on the iPhone OS platform.

    I don’t think we’ve heard the last of this from Apple; after all the “rules” relayed to us have been done so by a third party, who is clearly not a disinterested one, and while Apple offices are closed for the weekend at that. Let’s see what shakes out when Apple is actually open and perhaps says something—anything—official.

  22. @nottellinyou….Can you get Playboy at Target? Because you can get a Playboy app on the app store.

  23. Tom Waits says:

    Boxscore Babes has a valid point – there should be one rule that applies to all or no rule at all … The fact that Sports Illustrated/Playboy etc. are still represented in the App store smacks of hypocrisy.

  24. Nano Byte says:

    #1 “…and doesn’t want to tarnish the iPad’s reputation with sexual apps.”

    Haven’t they already tarnished the appeal by the mere name of the device? It’s a running joke everywhere and the first thing I and many people think of first when hearing or saying iPad is something near female genitalia.

    This isn’t part of the debate but a fun side note to at least mention.

    Apple can do whatever they want. It’s their company and they will live or die by the decisions their customers make. I personally abhor censorship, especially on this trivial level. There are other more important things to worry about in this world. Seeing a woman in a bikini means nothing in the grand scheme. And if it does incite “impure thoughts” (which is different to everyone) then that’s only a result of it being made an issue and forbidden. Typical of us as humans to ban something rather than have open dialogue about it and educate ourselves.

  25. David says:

    I am pretty much with Apple on this one, and very firmly against everyone who condemns this as censorship.

    It is NOT censorship. Apple is providing a consumer service. A shop. An App Store. It can only enable people to sell things, it can not prevent people from selling things. That would be as daft as me saying, I went to Tesco’s (UK supermarket) and asked them to sell my calendar of naked women. They said no. Thus they are implementing Censorship.

    Apple is under no obligation to sell anything they don’t want to sell. It is their shop. There are plenty of other shops out there who will sell what you have, just not Apple.

    However, my point is only that it is not censorship. I do think, in agreement with Boxscore Babes, that they could be more consistent and clear with their guidelines. But the App Store is still young, please remember, and whilst present fears may be heightened, I’m hopeful that Apple is working hard to straighten itself out. It is still uncharted territory, and, while that may not be any consolation for BB, it should be for consumers.


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