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Faster Forward
Posted at 02:50 PM ET, 03/23/2011

‘Gay cure,’ DUI-checkpoint apps latest tech-policy football

One iPhone app has gotten the boot and another set looks endangered, but you can’t blame Apple for either of these moves. The Cupertino, Calif., company had willingly accepted these programs into the App Store, the only easy way to add third-party software to its mobile devices; the fuss didn’t happen until other people noticed.

Tuesday night, Apple complied with increasingly vocal requests to remove the “gay cure” app. The program, released by an Orlando religious group called Exodus International, provided links to Web postings, videos, events and other content related to the Exodus’s mission of “helping those struggling with unwanted same-sex attraction to live a life congruent with biblical teaching.” (Hence the nickname, notwithstanding the American Psychiatric Association’s long-standing assessment that homosexuality isn’t a disorder from which one could be cured.)

The next App Store evictees will probably be the DUI-checkpoint-warning apps that four Democratic senators have asked Apple--as well as Google and Research In Motion--to stop hosting. Sens. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), and Tom Udall (D-N.M.) called those apps, which use a phone’s GPS to warn drivers when a sobriety check lies ahead, “harmful to public safety.”

RIM granted their request Wednesday afternoon and will yank the offending apps from its BlackBerry App World. I suspect that Apple won’t be long in following RIM’s lead, considering how it’s moved quickly in the past to delete such offending content as the Baby Shaker app it removed from the App Store in 2009. I’m less certain about Google, which doesn’t even screen Android programs for security, much less potential offensiveness, before accepting them into its Android Market.

What does seem clear, however, is that we will only see more demands for these app evictions. Once a company like Apple grants itself sweeping authority to reject or remove a third-party application from its software store, outside parties will ask that it use that power for good and not evil. And each successful pressure campaign will persuade others to follow suit.

So the discussion will only get messier. If you can invoke the offensiveness clause of Apple’s App Store to lobby the company to evict apps espousing views that you deem vile, are you prepared for your political opponents to return the favor? Just how far does this go?

By  |  02:50 PM ET, 03/23/2011

Categories:  Policy and politics

 
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