Is Apple's Cure Worse Than the Disease?
I need to be careful how I wade into this water, but I have to wonder: should Apple's pulling this week of an app released by a Christian nonprofit, Exodus International—dubbed by opponents the "gay cure" app—concern us, whatever our political and religious affiliations?
Granted, it's not censorship. It's not a government-imposed restriction on free speech. Apple is free to decide what it allows to be sold in its app store. But it does effectively put Apple in the position of deciding what sort of information customers can download on a media device with 90 percent of the tablet market. I'm not sure I like the precedent. Suppose an app from Planned Parenthood, Chris Brown or the Fur Information Council garnered 150,000 signatures calling for its removal? That could easily happen. What would we want Apple to do then? Should the company be able to draw the line for us, and if so, where?
When Monty Python's controversial comedy, Life Of Brian, hit theaters in 1979, senator Strom Thurmond got it pulled from some theaters, inspiring protesters to compare the move to something the then-newly-installed Iranian regime would do. Eventually, the ban was reversed, but even then, there were always other options and avenues for those who wished to see the film. Suppose I want to download an app controversial enough to be banned by Apple? Will any of the Android phone or tablet makers agree to carry the product, or would it be too much of a public relations disaster for them?
Maybe I'm being sensationalistic. Conservative Christians and other groups can, of course, get plenty of information on their cause via other mediums. But unlike with telephones, broadcast media and the Internet, there is no neutral carrier provision that applies to the makers of digital devices, though only a precious few dominate the market. Suppose Sony could have somehow banned all Black Sabbath from Walkmans in 1982? Even though people could have still listened to the band on turntables and other tape players, many would have been up in arms over one company having that much power. Should we be worried now?