WikiLeaks App Pulled from Apple Store

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December 21, 2010; Source: TechCrunch | An application developed to access and donate to the infamous nonprofit journalism outfit WikiLeaks was pulled from Apple’s digital shelves yesterday. After the recent ban on charity donation apps, and the gay rights imbroglio that saw one nonprofit’s app removed, it would seem that Apple is trying to honor its promise to keep both charity and controversy out of their stores. According to Igor Barinov, the developer of the WikiLeaks app, though, Apple’s reason is more mysterious, instead citing a point of their development guidelines that excludes personal attacks from app content.

The app didn’t do much—it was deemed “worthless” by a British outlet covering the story—it simply included a feed from the WikiLeaks Twitter account, and a links to the documents leaked by the organization. Barinov was donating $1 to WikiLeaks for each download of the $1.99 app, and pocketing the remainder before the app was pulled.

Official answers are still forthcoming, but Barinov claims that Apple staff told him the app violated guideline 14.1, which reads:

Any app that is defamatory, offensive, mean-spirited, or likely to place the targeted individual or group in harms way will be rejected.

And, guideline 22.1, which states:

Apps must comply with all legal requirements in any location where they are made available to users. It is the developer’s obligation to understand and conform to all local laws

In a statement given to Business Insider, Apple representatives said, “An app must comply with all local laws.” For digital content that’s available anywhere in the world, that’s a Sisyphean task, and what’s more, the actions taken by WikiLeaks are still in a sort of legal limbo.

With this move, Apple has joined PayPal, MasterCard, Amazon, and others in taking action against the organization (or, in this case, anything bearing the name WikiLeaks) without a clear explanation from the authorities about the necessity or legality of the takedown. As far as we can see, the only injury this app caused was not donating the full proceeds from its sale to the nonprofit it was supposed to benefit.—James David Morgan

  • Beth Kanter

    Did you see the Guardian’s take on this story?
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/blog/2010/dec/21/apple-wikileaks-app-ban-charity

    Seems like Apple really needs a charity vetting system, don’t you think?
    http://www.bethkanter.org/wikileaks-iphone/

  • James David Morgan

    @Beth
    Yes, thanks for sharing. If the Guardian’s speculations are on target, Apple has seriously overstepped its bounds, and their attitude indicates what kind of vetting system they would feel comfortable implementing. If they can determine what a developer does with the revenue, as well as the content of the app, then they’d have a stranglehold over nonprofits – and not just nonprofits alone.