Apple Pulls ‘Anti-Gay’App from iTunes App Store

Apple has pulled an app described as ‘anti-gay’ by Change.org from its iTunes App Store after receiving more than 7,730 signatures in protest. The app, called the “Manhattan Declaration,” was created by a group co-founded by Chuck Colson—a conservative Christian evangelist and author who was arrested but never charged in the Watergate scandal prior to his conversion—which goes by the same name and uses the app as a tie-in to its website. After pulling the app, Apple cited the app being “offensive to large groups of people,” which of course violates its App Store developer guidelines, as the reason.

The Manhattan Declaration app asks four yes or no questions about same-sex marriage, the beginning of life, homosexuality, and abortion. Depending on the user’s response, they are then asked to sign a “declaration” in support of defining marriage as between a man and a woman and against abortion. Not exactly the most offensive app I’ve seen and the size of the e-mail petition from Change.org pales in comparison to the nearly 500,000 signatures that the Manhattan Declaration claims to have supporting its cause.

Why did Apple pull the app? Because it doesn’t want to allow itself to get pulled into a freedom of speech debate over these issues. The group behind the Manhattan Declaration still has its declaration on its website and a mobile version lets iPhone users sign it almost as easily as the app allowed them to. This isn’t necessarily Apple censoring but rather the company not letting its popular iTunes App Store be sucked into a debate over issues that an app can’t do justice to.

Of course, this isn’t stopping the Manhattan Declaration from trying to get back into iTunes. The group released a statement saying,

The core drafters of the Manhattan Declaration have e-mailed Apple CEO Steve Jobs to learn why the declaration’s iPhone app has been deleted from the company’s site. Stay tuned as we post the letter after Jobs has received it and for Apple’s response.”

That’s all fine and dandy but don’t expect Apple to change its decision—the company has a long history of banning apps, other companies pulling their own controversial apps and apps being outright denied admission in the first place.

The real issue here is that with the growth of closed marketplaces like iTunes, developers with viewpoints that are offensive to some but embraced by others are finding it harder to get their messages out there. Regardless of how you feel about women’s rights and gay rights, as corporations gain more control of the distribution of information, a blanket form of censorship is emerging—don’t offend anyone, ever. Is this just good business or should media distributors be forced to abide by some type of freedom of speech guidelines?

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