After inciting activist outrage and an online petition that garnered over 150,000 signatures, Apple has decided to pull the Exodus International "Gay Cure" app from its app store. Prior to it being yanked from the store, the app was described by The Atlantic's Nicholas Jackson as containing "lists of events, videos and news stories that are carefully curated to reflect the mission of Exodus International, which states that individuals can 'grow into heterosexuality.'" It also, Jackson notes, touted a 4+ store rating which signifies that Apple initially found the app to have "no objectionable material."
The application is only the latest to incite public outrage before being pulled from digital shelves. And it again raises the question, still seemingly unanswered, about Apple's criteria for rejecting controversial applications. An Apple spokesperson told Fox News that the app violated "the developer guidelines by being offensive to large groups of people" as its only rationale. An Exodus International spokesperson was cited by Fox as saying that, "there was no reason given as of yet. We're planning to contact them to see if we can get a response."
Apple has pulled applications that have been offensive to the gay community before. In November, ABC News notes, the iTunes store pulled an application advocating the "dignity of marriage as the union of one man and one woman" after 7,000 people signed an online petition at Change.org. As to what constitutes "large groups" (7,000? 150,000?) to Apple is unclear.
We did, however, find this appraisal by PC World's Lance Ulanoff, who surveyed tech companies as moral gatekeepers, helpful in putting the debate in context:
For better or worse, this is the new world of application creation, delivery, and access. Companies like Apple, Microsoft, Google, and RIM are now the gate keepers. They're not perfect, though, Apple has so many products flowing in that Baby Shakers and Gay Cures regularly slip through....The point is, what do we want these companies to do? Provide the seemingly necessary checks and balances to protect our phones, tablets, and even sensibilities? Or do we want consumers to beware and stop downloading bad apps and application developers to build better, more useful and far less objectionable apps?