Cartoonist and recent Pulitzer Prize winner Mark Fiore reportedly had his iPhone application rejected by Apple several months ago, because his app’s satirical content made fun of public figures. Fiore made history earlier this week becoming the first exclusively Web-based cartoonist to win the Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartooning. Fiore received the honor for his “biting wit, extensive research and ability to distill complex issues,” which was apparently too controversial for Cupertino’s App Store gatekeepers.
In an interview with the Nieman Journalism Lab, Fiore explained that Apple in December rejected his application, called NewsToons, because it violated section 3.3.14 of the iPhone Developer Program License Agreement. “Applications may be rejected if they contain content or materials of any kind (text, graphics, images, photographs, sounds, etc.) that in Apple’s reasonable judgement may be found objectionable, for example, materials that may be considered obscene, pornographic, or defamatory,” the iPhone Dev agreement reads.
Apple has become famous for removing or prohibiting applications from entering the iTunes App Store–which sells applications for the iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch — based on what Apple deems “objectionable content.” The company in February purged many sexually suggestive applications after receiving customer complaints, Apple temporarily rejected an application from industrial-rock band Nine Inch Nails, and the company also rejected outright an app from Comedy Central’s popular animated show South Park that included episode clips from the show.
In September 2008, Cupertino also gave thumbs down to a politically-themed app called Freedom Time, which counted down the days until President George W. Bush’s last day in office. Apple CEO Steve Jobs reportedly sent an e-mail to Freedom Time’s developers explaining the application “would be offensive to roughly half [of Apple’s] users.”
The problem with rejecting applications like Freedom Time and Fiore’s NewsToons application is it appears to reinforce one of the biggest concerns about Apple’s strict control over iPhone and iPad downloadable content. Namely, as Wired’s Brian X. Chen pointed out in February, that Apple may end up having too much control over the distribution and publication of controversial digital content as the popularity of Apple’s iDevice lineup increases.
You may think that’s an unfair analysis of Apple’s policies, but bear in mind that the United States, not to mention most other democratic nations, has a long tradition of lampooning its public figures and political leaders with satirical writing, drawings and radio and television shows.
Take a look at this example below of Fiore’s work, a clip that Apple reportedly used as an example of NewsToon’s objectionable content, and let us know if you think Apple was right in its decision to reject Fiore’s content from the iTunes App Store.