Wired reported last week that the Apple App Store has rejected an app that compiles news reports in order to map overseas U.S. drone strikes, and provide users a pop-up notification whenever a drone strike has been reported…
But the problem with censorship—public or private—is that it’s devilishly difficult to administer consistently. A company like Apple, once it decides to become a gatekeeper, should not be surprised to quickly find itself in a morass—not only the morass of “junk” in its slush pile, but a political morass as it gets drawn into various passionate debates, and a public relations morass as its judgments are ridiculed.
This latest incident, the suppression of the drone-strike app, might be just another example of the capricious stupidity that censors the world over always seem to display at least partly because of the inherent difficulties of their “art.” But in this case the repeated rejections, their shifting rationales, and the alignment of this action with the interests of our government, cannot help but create suspicion of darker possibilities—that the company in some way has agreed to start protecting the interests of our national security establishment (if not necessarily our national security). Similar questions were raised when the company allowed and then three days laterremoveda Wikileaks App from the store, at a time when the U.S. government was pressuring numerous companies tofinancially blockadethe reporting organization (a blockade that companies are striving tomaintain).
That brings up a final disadvantage of censorship: it always ends up being misused. By blocking the drone-strike app, is Apple helping their customers—or the national security agencies? They’re certainly not helping their country.
Free speech—it’s is not just in the Constitution, it’s also a good idea!
photo credit ARM Research FacilitySource: aclu.org