Monday, March 21, 2011

Homophobia? There's an app for that!

UPDATE: Apple gave them the boot.

Apple is known for a policy of "we won't publish our morality standards for apps, but we know objectionable content when we see it."

The iPhone Development Blog suggests the following no-nos:
  • Nudity is off limits, even with a 17+ rating.
  • For women in bikinis, images are rejected seemingly at random. One reviewer will object to a particular image and pass others, the next reviewer will find an objectionable image in the batch that the first reviewer passed. And on it goes.
  • Anything related to politicians will most likely be rejected.
Some recent rejected apps have included books with naughty words, a picture of a knife that made "slasher" sounds, a religious photo parody thing, and anti-seal-clubbing game, and others.

But what the App Store's reviewers clearly have no objection to is anti-gay apps.

The Atlantic reports that "More than 90,000 people have signed a petition hosted on demanding that Apple remove an application from the iTunes Store that promises to deliver 'freedom from homosexuality through the power of Jesus Christ.'"

The app, by conservative Christian group Exodus International, earned a 4+ rating from Apple, which Exodus points out means that  "applications in this category contain no objectionable material".

The group is entirely dedicated to "curing" homosexuality. From their site:
Exodus International believes… that God created us as human beings in His image as male and female and that the only biblically sanctioned expression of sexuality is between a man and a woman who are married to one another. Exodus International believes that our biological sex is not open to limitless self-created categories, but has boundaries determined by God, our Creator.
Exodus International believes… that the health of individuals, children and our culture is intimately linked to the well being of natural marriage and its biblical intention — a sacred, legal, and social union ordained by God to be a life-long, sexually exclusive relationship between one man and one woman.
People have a right to their beliefs, but lets remember that, couched in this polite language, is the assertion that gay people are choosing to sin against God, and denying their own "normal" biology.

While I don't wish to pollute my iPhone by checking out the app in person, Exodus was kind enough to provide screen grabs in their press release:

Looks so harmless...

As of this writing, it's still there. But it may not be for long.

Last year, Apple approved — then pulled — The Manhattan Declaration, another app that opposed gay marriage on religious grounds after being petitioned to do so.

These are challenging times for American marketers. And while I am offended by the content of the Exodus app, I am also concerned by Apple's seemingly arbitrary management of standards. As a business, they're primarily interested in appealing to the maximum number of people possible by being as neutral and inoffensive as possible. (While in private contributing $100K to No to Prop 8.)

This is a dangerous game. Apple would to well to set, and maintain, consistent standards for app content that reflect modern human rights. Would they support an app that offered to "cure" someone of their ethnicity or gender, no wonder how gently worded? The idea that natural homosexuality does not exist, and that it is a mental disorder in need of a cure, is a belief that people are "allowed" to have in private. But so are theories of racial superiority. That doesn't mean it's a suitable topic for a ├╝ber-controlled brand like Apple to endorse.

That petition, once again, is hosted on For some reason, I think that most of Exodus' supporters are PCs.


  1. We shouldn't *have* to petition Apple about what apps we are/aren't allowed to run, any more than we should have to petition the Church to allow us to read Lady Chatterly's Lover. Sure, you may own an iPad or iPhone, but once Apple's been paid, it should be none of their damned business what you use the device for.

  2. I know, David. I would also prefer a free market on apps. But they started by deciding they would be the filter. As long as they do that. it's up to consumers to give "feedback".

  3. I don't object to the petition per se, but I think it's a pretty weak gesture.

    Apple's PC and laptop platforms based on OSX are still open and unobjectionable (so far), but its tablet and smartphone platforms based on iOS are not. Choosing not to buy an iPhone or iPad is a much more powerful statement than adding your name to a petition.

  4. Too late for me, then :)

    Although I disagree about the petition being a hollow gesture. As I noted in the post, Apple caves to pressure. And although its fan boys & girls are blindly loyal, they feel ownership of the brand. Apple pisses them off at its peril.