Censorship by Apple

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Censorship by Apple refers to Apple Inc.'s removal, omission, or disruption of the spread of content or information from its services or subsidiaries, such as the iTunes Store and the App Store (iOS), in order to comply with Apple's company policies, legal demands, or various government censorship laws.


iTunes Books

The iBooks description for Moby-Dick censored sperm whale as of April 2010. [1]

According to The Daily Telegraph , four erotic books, including Blonde and Wet, the Complete Story, were allegedly removed from the top 10 chart on July 26, 2010. [2]

Northwest Press has had repeated conflicts with Apple's content limitations on sales through the iBooks store. In 2011, an adaptation by Tom Bouden of Oscar Wilde's play The Importance of Being Earnest was only approved after the addition of black bars to cover partial male nudity. [3] The technology company initially permitted the individual issues of Jon Macy's Fearful Hunter, but rejected the collected edition, then removed the issues. [4] [5] The satirical Al-Qaeda's Super Secret Weapon was rejected outright. [4] In 2016, Northwest published a self-censored version of Hard to Swallow by Justin Hall and Dave Davenport – covering the "objectionable" parts with images of apples – when the original version was rejected due to sexual content. [6]

iTunes Music

Song censorship

There is a policy of censoring profanity in song titles on iTunes. [7] This has resulted in a Scunthorpe glitch, by which inoffensive titles are censored due to a coincidental string of letters. [8]

If the song has an explicit label, it will be marked "explicit" next to the song title. If a song is marked "explicit" it is unavailable for purchase if "restrict explicit content" is checked under the parental controls preference. Often there will be a "clean" mark next to the title of some songs, meaning the lyrics have been censored, and is available to purchase on all accounts. Generally, if a song is marked "clean" there is an explicit version available as well.

iTunes Podcasts


On August 6, 2018, Apple removed all but one of the podcasts created by InfoWars , a website owned by Alex Jones, a right-wing American conspiracy theorist radio-show host and content creator. Apple cited hate speech as the reason for the removal of the content. [9] [10] Apple's decision to remove this content sparked other major technology companies, including Facebook, YouTube, Spotify, and Google, into removing InfoWars content. [9]

App Store

Newspaper and magazine content

In May 2009, Apple rejected the first version of "Newspapers", an iPhone app that let users read content from 50+ newspapers around the world, including the New York Times , France's Le Monde , and the United Kingdom tabloid The Sun . The app was rejected because the topless "Page 3" girls daily features were described as "obscene". A second version of the application was submitted, removing access to The Sun, and adding a price tag of £0.59. The app was made available in the summer, after the release of the iPhone 3.0 software. [11] [12] Another application, of similar nature to 'Newspapers', called 'Eucalyptus' allowed users to download e-books to their iPhone, though was rejected by Apple because one of the e-books that could have been downloaded was the Kama Sutra . The ban has since been lifted. [13]

We do believe we have a moral responsibility to keep porn off the iPhone ... Folks who want porn can buy an Android phone.

We can't adapt European magazines to the standards of Utah.

Mathias Müller von Blumencron (editor of Der Spiegel , warning that the news magazine would not alter its content for the App Store) [15]

The App Store has Playboy and Sports Illustrated adult-rated apps that have yet to be removed, while some apps by others were removed citing adult content which has resulted in accusations of hypocrisy. Despite this, adult sites continue to market for iPhone and iPad users. [16] [17] [18] [19] In November 2009, the application of Stern (a mainstream German weekly magazine with a print circulation of about 900,000) was deleted for several weeks without warning. [15] [20] In January 2010, Europe's largest newspaper, German tabloid Bild, removed content from the iPhone version of its print edition at the request of Apple, and later it had to modify one of its applications - like in the Stern case because of nudity. [21] The Association of German Magazine Publishers (VDZ) warned that with such interventions Apple might be moving towards censorship. [21]

November 26, 2010, an informational magazine about Google's OS from the Danish publisher Mediaprovider wasn't allowed in the app store. [22]

The Guardian described rejection of explicit content by Apple as analogous to that of the distributor WH Smith, a main distributor which for many years imposed content restrictions on British publishers. Workers at the fashion magazine Dazed & Confused have nicknamed their iPad edition the "Iran edition". [14]

Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoons

In December 2009, Apple banned a cartoon app called NewsToons by cartoonist Mark Fiore, on the grounds that it "ridiculed public figures." [23] [24] In April 2010, Fiore won the Pulitzer Prize for his political satire cartoons, making history as the very first internet-only cartoonist to win the prestigious journalistic prize. [23] [24] [25] Following public outcry after the story broke in the wake of the award, Apple asked Fiore to resubmit his app, and it was subsequently accepted. Fiore said, "Sure, mine might get approved, but what about someone who hasn't won a Pulitzer and who is maybe making a better political app than mine? Do you need some media frenzy to get an app approved that has political material?" [24]

Baby Shaker

In April 2009, a game called Baby Shaker was approved for the App Store then later removed due to complaints. The game allowed the user to shake their phone until an image of a cartoon baby on the screen died. [26]

Nine Inch Nails

In May 2009, Trent Reznor of the rock band Nine Inch Nails announced, via his Twitter account, that Apple had rejected an update to the Nine Inch Nails application due to "objectionable content". [27] The developer posted a message on the Nine Inch Nails discussion boards explaining the situation further:

v1.0 is live. v1.0.3 got rejected due to content yet the app has no content in it. this was mainly a stability release to fix the bug that crashes the app for international users. the bug was fixed 24 hours after 1.0 went live and we have been waiting for apple to approve it ever since. meanwhile the app continues to get a growing number of 1 star ratings from international users understandably frustrated by the bug. but looks like our hands are tied. [28]

Apple later permitted the update. [29]

iPhone eBook

In December 2009, Ted Lando's eBook app "Take Control of iPhone OS 3" was rejected by Apple. The app was not permitted back into the app store until all references to jailbreaking were removed. [30]

Phone Story

In 2011, Apple banned a game called Phone Story that explored the ethical challenges of smartphone manufacturing, including conflict minerals, environmental waste, and troubled labor practices. [31] The game was eventually published on the web by its creator Molleindustria.

Drone Strike Alert

In August 2012, Josh Begley created an iPhone app that sent out a push notification whenever a U.S. military UAV struck a target. The app was rejected because of Apple finding the content "objectionable and crude." [32]


On March 11, 2013, HiddenApps was approved and appeared in the App Store. This App provided access to developer diagnostic menus, allowed for stock Apps to be hidden and enabled an opt-out feature for iAds, Apple's developer driven advertisement system. [33]

Educational app

In July 2013, a tech education startup called Treehouse claimed that Apple had refused to let them release an iOS app that contained lessons about Android. [34]

Papers, Please

The video game Papers, Please , centered around the operation of a border checkpoint, was brought to iPad in December 2014, but developer Lucas Pope was forced to remove some pixellated nudity from the game's full-body scanner to be allowed to release the game for Apple devices. [35] After a few days, Pope was permitted to upload a full version of the game to the App Store including pixellated nudity in an apparent reversal by Apple. [35] However, it is still rated 17+ on the App Store. [36]

France Musique app removal

On May 4, 2015, Apple removed the France Musique application from its App store due to the airing of "inappropriate content" in a podcast. [37] The application displayed a painting by Édouard Manet, Olympia, depicting mild nudity. The podcast application was submitted to the App Store again, with a 17+ rating. [38]

Chaos Computer Club videos about security vulnerabilities

In October 2015, Apple rejected a custom streaming application for Apple TV that was created by some members of the Frankfurt branch of Chaos Computer Club, Europe's largest hacker association. The application was meant to show recordings of talks from Chaos Computer Club's conferences. According to a blog post that was written about the incident, Apple's reason was because "some of the videos show how to hack Apple devices".[ citation needed ] The recordings are publicly available and are hosted on YouTube as well. Using the YouTube app still allows playback of the content on Apple devices.

Binding of Isaac

Apple banned the video game The Binding of Isaac from appearing in the iOS App Store due to its cartoon depictions of violence towards children. [39]

Telegram and Telegram X

In February 2018, Apple removed Telegram and Telegram X, encrypted messaging applications made by Telegram Messenger LLP, from the App Store due to content deemed inappropriate. [40] Apple specifically cited instances of child pornography that was made available to users, and subsequently banned the apps until the situation could be dealt with. [41]


Apple removed Infowars app from the App Store in September 2018 citing content that violated their policy against indecent material. [42] [43] Apple's ban simply prevents users from downloading the app, but does not restrict access to those with the app installed. [42] [44]


In November 2018, Apple removed the Tumblr app from the App Store due to Tumblr's failure to filter child pornography. [45] Tumblr uses a database of known child pornography to automatically detect and remove child pornography from their website, however they found evidence of images that were not in the database present on Tumblr. [45] In response to the ban, Tumblr removed the instances of child pornography and has since moved to ban all pornographic material on their platform as of December 17, 2018. [45] [46]

Historical games

In December 2018, Apple removed the strategy game Afghanistan '11 due to the fact that it featured real-life combatants. Slitherine, the developers of the game, countered that the main objectives focused on supporting Afghan civilians rather than defeating the Taliban. This followed a temporary ban of the game Ultimate General: Gettysburg for featuring the Confederate flag in historical context. [47]


In October 2019, Apple removed the HKmap.live app from its App Store. HKMap is used to track the locations of protests and police in Hong Kong. Apple stated that the app "allowed users to evade law enforcement". [48]

Censorship by country

The following are instances of censorship and information control imposed by Apple in App Stores other than the United States App Store. Many were imposed due to pressure from foreign governments and were put into effect to comply with laws.


As early as 2017, Apple restricted the emoji of the flag of the Republic of China on devices used in mainland China. [49]

In 2018, Apple's restrictions on sending the word "Taiwan" or sending an emoji representing the flag of Taiwan on iDevices using a Chinese country code or language settings caused the devices to crash. [50] [51] [52]

In 2018, Apple removed apps from the Chinese App Store that allowed users to access content forbidden by the Chinese government. Many of these apps gave users access to virtual private networks that could allow them to circumvent the Great Firewall of China. Apple did not cite any Chinese laws, but claimed that the apps broke the laws of their local governments. Among the apps removed was VyprVPN, an app by Golden Frog, a company which had filed an amicus brief supporting Apple during the FBI–Apple encryption dispute. Apple is the first foreign global technology company to concede to the Chinese government's demands. [53]

In 2019, Bitter Winter , a daily magazine on human rights and religious liberty in China, reported that its app had also been removed from the Chinese App Store. [54]

Artists who reference the Tiananmen Square protests have had some or all of their music removed from iTunes, including Jacky Cheung Hok-yau and Tat Ming Pair. [55]


In February 2017, Apple restricted payment services in Iranian apps to comply with U.S. sanctions that forbade Iranian currency from entering the United States. [56] The Iranian apps responded by implementing an Iranian electronic payment service. [56]

In August 2017, Apple removed many Iranian apps from the App Store citing U.S. sanctions placed on Iran. [56] While Apple has neither stores in Iran nor specific versions of the App Store for the country, Iranian citizens are able to get access to Apple products and content from external sources. [56] Apple removed many apps developed specifically for Iranians, including a ride-sharing service called Snapp, and a food delivery service called DelionFoods. [56]

In April 2018, Apple blocked the Telegram app in Iran in response to concerns that access to the encrypted messaging service presented a threat to Iranian national security. [57]


In May 2018, Apple played a role in the censorship of Telegram, an encrypted messaging app used globally. [58] [59] Interested in surveying the encrypted messages, the Russian government demanded Telegram provide decryption keys to their Federal Security Service. [58] [59] When Telegram refused, the Russian Government threatened Apple with legal repercussions if they did not block Telegram from the Russian App Store and eliminate the push notification feature. [58] [59] The founder of Telegram, Pavel Durov, has publicly claimed Apple has restricted Telegram users across the world from updating their app; an action that could cause problems for Telegram's ability to meet regulations. [59]

See also

Related Research Articles

Internet censorship in Australia is enforced by both the country's criminal law as well as voluntarily enacted by internet service providers. The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has the power to enforce content restrictions on Internet content hosted within Australia, and maintain a blacklist of overseas websites which is then provided for use in filtering software. The restrictions focus primarily on child pornography, sexual violence, and other illegal activities, compiled as a result of a consumer complaints process.

Google and its subsidiary companies, such as YouTube, have removed or omitted information from its services to comply with its company policies, legal demands, and government censorship laws. Google's censorship varies between countries and their regulations, and ranges from advertisements to speeches.

Mobile porn, also known as mobile adult content, mobile erotica or cellphone adult content, is pornography transmitted over mobile telecommunications networks for consumption on mobile devices: mainly mobile phones, tablets and smartphones.

Internet censorship control or suppression of what can be accessed, published, or viewed on the internet

Internet censorship is the control or suppression of what can be accessed, published, or viewed on the Internet enacted by regulators, or on their own initiative. Individuals and organizations may engage in self-censorship for moral, religious, or business reasons, to conform to societal norms, due to intimidation, or out of fear of legal or other consequences.

Internet censorship in Iran

In the first few years of the 21st century, Iran experienced a great surge in Internet usage. As of 2018, Iran has an estimate Internet penetration rate of between 64% to 69% out of a population of about 82 million.

The App Store is a digital distribution platform, developed and maintained by Apple Inc., for mobile apps on its iOS & iPadOS operating systems. The store allows users to browse and download apps developed with Apple's iOS software development kit. Apps can be downloaded on the iPhone smartphone, the iPod Touch handheld computer, or the iPad tablet computer, and some can be transferred to the Apple Watch smartwatch or 4th-generation or newer Apple TVs as extensions of iPhone apps.

Tumblr American microblogging and social networking website

Tumblr is an American microblogging and social networking website founded by David Karp in 2007 and currently owned by Automattic. The service allows users to post multimedia and other content to a short-form blog. Users can follow other users' blogs. Bloggers can also make their blogs private. For bloggers many of the website's features are accessed from a "dashboard" interface.

Douban.com, launched on March 6, 2005, is a Chinese social networking service website that allows registered users to record information and create content related to film, books, music, recent events, and activities in Chinese cities. It could be seen as one of the most influential web 2.0 websites in China. Douban also owns an internet radio station, which ranks No.1 in the iOS App Store in 2012. Douban was formerly open to both registered and unregistered users. For registered users, the site recommends potentially interesting books, movies, and music to them in addition to serving as a social network website such as WeChat, Weibo and record keeper; for unregistered users, the site is a place to find ratings and reviews of media.

MiKandi is a mobile adult software applications store. Developed by MiKandi LLC, a Seattle-based company, MiKandi is the world's first and largest mobile porn app store. The store seeks to get around restrictions placed on adult content by Apple Inc. by

Facebook has been replacing traditional media channels since its founding in 2003. Censorship in the media, especially on Facebook is because of a variety of reasons, since Facebook accepts all kinds of content, with little or no moderation, and displays what people post publicly, this practice can sometimes threaten oppressive governments especially in totalitarian regimes while also propelling fake news, hate speech and misinformation thus undermining the credibility of online platforms and social media. Many countries have banned or temporarily limited access to the social networking website Facebook, including Mainland China, Iran, Syria, and North Korea. Use of the website has also been restricted in various ways in other countries. As of May 2016, the only countries to ban access around the clock to the social networking site are China, Iran, Syria, and North Korea. However, since most North Korean residents have no access to the Internet, China and Iran are the only countries where access to Facebook is actively restricted in a wholesale manner.

Censorship of Twitter refers to Internet censorship by governments that block access to Twitter, or censorship by Twitter itself. Twitter censorship also includes governmental notice and take down requests to Twitter, which Twitter enforces in accordance with its Terms of Service when a government or authority submits a valid removal request to Twitter indicating that specific content is illegal in their jurisdiction.

Submissions for mobile apps for iOS are subject to approval by Apple's App Review team, as outlined in the SDK agreement, for basic reliability testing and other analysis, before being published on the App Store. Applications may still be distributed ad hoc if they are rejected, by the author manually submitting a request to Apple to license the application to individual iPhones, although Apple may withdraw the ability for authors to do this at a later date.

WhatsApp Messaging and VoIP service by Facebook

WhatsApp Messenger, or simply WhatsApp, is an American freeware, cross-platform messaging and Voice over IP (VoIP) service owned by Facebook, Inc. It allows users to send text messages and voice messages, make voice and video calls, and share images, documents, user locations, and other media. WhatsApp's client application runs on mobile devices but is also accessible from desktop computers, as long as the user's mobile device remains connected to the Internet while they use the desktop app. The service requires users to provide a standard cellular mobile number for registering with the service. In January 2018, WhatsApp released a standalone business app targeted at small business owners, called WhatsApp Business, to allow companies to communicate with customers who use the standard WhatsApp client.

Internet censorship circumvention is the use of various methods and tools to bypass internet censorship.

WeChat Chinese messaging, social media, and payment app

WeChat is a Chinese multi-purpose messaging, social media and mobile payment app developed by Tencent. It was first released in 2011, and became one of the world's largest standalone mobile apps in 2018, with over 1 billion monthly active users. WeChat has been described as China's "app for everything" and a "super app" because of its wide range of functions. Due to its popularity, user activity on WeChat is used for mass surveillance in China. WeChat also censors politically sensitive topics in China.

Internet censorship in Russia

Internet censorship in the Russian Federation is enforced on the basis of several laws and through several mechanisms. Since 2012, Russia maintains a centralized internet blacklist maintained by the Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media (Roskomnadzor). The list is used for the censorship of individual URLs, domain names, and IP addresses. It was originally introduced to block sites that contain materials advocating drug abuse and drug production, descriptions of suicide methods, and containing child pornography. It was subsequently amended to allow the blocking of materials that are classified as extremist by including them to the Federal List of Extremist Materials. According to Freedom House, these regulations have been frequently abused to block criticism of the federal government or local administrations. A law prohibiting "abuse of mass media freedom" implements a process for the shutting down of online media outlets. In March of 2018 the bill which introduced fines for those who are deemed to be spreading "fake news" and show "blatant disrespect" toward the state authorities was signed into law.

Censorship of the iTunes Store refers to external attempts at blocking access to digital content distributed through the iTunes Store.

Telegram (software) Free cross-platform messenging service

Telegram is a cloud-based instant messaging and voice over IP service. Telegram client apps are available for Android, iOS, Windows Phone, Windows, macOS and Linux. Users can send messages and exchange photos, videos, stickers, audio and files of any type.

TikTok Video sharing application

TikTok is a Chinese video-sharing social networking service owned by ByteDance, a Beijing-based internet technology company founded in 2012 by Zhang Yiming. It is used to create short dance, lip-sync, comedy and talent videos. ByteDance first launched Douyin for the China market in September 2016. Later, TikTok was launched in 2017 for iOS and Android in most markets outside of China; however, it only became available in the United States after merging with Musical.ly on 2 August 2018. TikTok and Douyin are similar to each other, but run on separate servers and have different content to comply with Chinese censorship restrictions. The application allows users to create short music and lip-sync videos of 3 to 15 seconds and short looping videos of 3 to 60 seconds. They also have global offices including Los Angeles, New York, London, Paris, Berlin, Dubai, Mumbai, Singapore, Jakarta, Seoul, and Tokyo. The app is popular in East Asia, South Asia, Southeast Asia, the United States, Turkey, Russia, and other parts of the world. TikTok and Douyin's servers are each based in the market where the respective app is available.

HKmap.live Hong Kong live web mapping service

HKmap.live is a web mapping service which crowdsources and tracks the location of protesters and police in Hong Kong. The service was launched during the 2019 Hong Kong protests and gathers reports on police patrols and tear gas deployments via Telegram. The service is available in an Android version via the Google Play Store and in a web version, while the iOS version was removed by Apple.


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