Apple has apparently asked a Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist to resubmit an iPhone app previously rejected because of its satirical nature. Mark Fiore's animations, which are featured on SFGate.com and lampoon public figures such as President Obama, reality TV stars and Wall Street titans, were previously deemed objectionable by Apple's app review committee.
According to an e-mail to Fiore by Apple Dec. 21, and reprinted by the Nieman Journalism Lab, the NewsToons app's collection of political cartoons violated iPhone Developer Program License Agreement Section 3.3.14, which stipulates that "applications may be rejected if they contain content or materials of any kind (text, graphics, images, photographs, sounds, etc.) that in Apple's reasonable judgment may be found objectionable."
With that e-mail, Apple apparently included screenshots of the relevant "objectionable" content, such as a cartoon in which Obama on the podium is interrupted by Afghan president Hamid Karzai, the White House gate crashers, and a group of budget protesters. The Nieman Journalism Lab goes on to point out that "Fiore isn't the first editorial cartoonist to clash with Apple" and that a 2009 app "which used political caricatures by Tom Richmond" was also rejected before protests led to its eventual admittance.
"I feel kind of guilty," Fiore told the Wall Street Journal April 16. "I'm getting preferential treatment because I got the Pulitzer."
Fiore suggested in that interview that he would probably resubmit the app for Apple's review. "I'm a sucker for Apple," Fiore told the newspaper, "and I do like what they've done. I've always felt like they would be the type to support political cartooning."
As the App Store has increased in size and popularity, with research firm IDC predicting some 300,000 apps by the end of 2010, Apple has become more stringent about weeding what it perceives as objectionable apps from the online storefront's lineup. In a Feb. 22 article in The New York Times, Apple head of worldwide product marketing Philip Schiller said that "an increasing number of apps containing questionable content" had been pulled from the App Store.
In addition to pulling apps found objectionable by its review board, Apple has also begun taking down programs by developers who allegedly posted fake reviews, such as its December removal of 1,000 applications by Molinker. Apple's stringency may increase as it prepares iPhone 4.0 OS, which will be released this summer and includes a variety of all-new features, including the long-awaited ability to multitask.
But some of Apple's app removals have attracted their share of controversy, with third-party developers asking why their products were removed from the App Store while others with similar content were allowed to remain. In Fiore's case, the answer may well have to do with a certain prize.
Editor's Note: The reference to "iPhone 3.0 OS" has been fixed to "iPhone 4.0 OS."