Apple targets 'objectionable' apps, leaves Playboy, SI in App Store

Developers angered, but Apple says content from branded companies is broadly available

Apple Inc. recently pulled thousands of sex-tinged applications from its App Store for containing "objectionable content," but it has quickly come under fire for being hypocritical, since it retained some racy apps from well-known publishers, including Playboy and Sports Illustrated.

Apple explained its decision to keep some apps and not others in an e-mail Tuesday, noting that the Playboy and Sports Illustrated apps come from established companies with "broadly" available content.

"The difference is this is a well-known company with previously published material available broadly in a well-accepted format," an Apple spokeswoman said in the e-mail explaining why some apps were taken down and not others. "We always try to consider the source and intent of the apps when reviewing them."

As for why other apps were removed in recent days, the spokeswoman repeated earlier comments by a top Apple marketing executive, Philip Schiller, who said Apple had been receiving complaints from "women who found the content getting too degrading and objectionable, as well as parents who were upset with what their kids were able to see." She said that over the past few weeks, a small number of developers had been submitting an "increasing number of apps containing very objectionable content."

While the spokeswoman didn't name any of the apps that Apple removed, the New York Times and other publications have named a few of them, including apps called "SlideHer" and "Sexy Scratch Off" by a software company called On the Go Girls.

The fact that some apps have remained while others from lesser-known companies were removed has outraged some developers and some people who left comments on the App Store site.

"Why hasn't this app been pulled off the app store like the rest?" asked a commenter identified as appstoregamer, referring to the free Sports Illustrated Swimsuit 2010 app. "Very interesting policy you got there [Steve] Jobs."

Added FloydFelt, "Either bring back the other bikini apps with the same level of skin as the Sports Illustrated app, or ban this app too!!!"

In comments below the 99-cent Playboy app, someone named Digitalangeldollars said, "Apple removes apps??!!!! Except for this one?!" The comment continues, "What I want to know is why you guys are writing rules based on little Johnny looking at a woman instead of writing rules based on the customers who paid $400 for a phone that is now being censored to an extreme that is beyond that of even your public, local, NBC TV channel. Such measures are extreme and unwarranted."

The Times quoted Fred Clarke, co-president of On the Go Girls, as saying he was "shocked" by Apple's removal of all 50 of his company's apps, which he called "racier than the Disney Channel, but not by much."

An executive at application developer Bandwidth.com said his company doesn't make App Store apps with sexual content, but he added that he had heard from plenty of developers worried about what Apple has done. "We don't have girlie apps in our lineup... [but] I've heard an earful from others along the lines of 'If they cut that app without warning, they might cut something I've developed without warning,'" said Anders Brownworth, vice president for research and development at Bandwidth.com.

Brownworth and some analysts said that Android Market, the application store for Google Inc.'s Android mobile platform, has traditionally been the store that tended to pull apps after getting complaints.

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