App rejections fall far from tree

By Rob Pegoraro
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, April 25, 2010

The story could have been programmed to draw media coverage, were it not for its implausibility: Apple (a reader magnet) banned a future Pulitzer Prize winner's iPhone application (invoking journalists' professional pride) because it "ridicules public figures" (spurring righteous indignation among reporters who live to afflict the comfortable).

But as crazy as that sounds, it's what Apple did in December when it rejected cartoonist Mark Fiore's NewsToons. A hail of bad publicity resulted when the news emerged after his April 12 Pulitzer award.

Apple relented within days, and NewsToons now sells for 99 cents in its App Store.

Story over? Absolutely not. Fiore's saga may have been ridiculous, but it fit into a pattern.

Since the App Store's 2008 debut as the first and only easy way to add third-party software to an iPhone, numerous titles have run afoul of its faceless, amorphous reviewers.

Among their reasons to block new programs:

-- Letting users look up definitions of swear words.

-- Not including enough functions.

-- Duplicating Apple software's functions.

-- Letting users read a text-only copy of the Kama Sutra.

-- Advocating the "politically charged" issue of single-payer health insurance.

-- Publishing other sorts of political commentary.

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