The iTunes App Store Declares War on Titillation

Apple has moved quite comprehensively to ban sex from its iTunes Application store, and while it does clear out some spam applications, some high-selling and even tame ones find themselves caught in the blast.

TechCrunch has been following these developments since Thursday, when the creator of "Wobble iBoobs" got at notice that his app - which grossed $30,000 last year - was being unilaterally removed due to user complaints about sexual content. The developer, Jon Atherton, went looking for answers from Apple on what it's new policy was toward sexual content - as Apple hadn't published one to developers. He says he was told the following. If accurate, it's more than prudish. Per Atherton (to TechCrunch):

1. No images of women in bikinis (Ice skating tights are not OK either)
2. No images of men in bikinis! (I didn't ask about Ice Skating tights for men)
3. No skin (he seriously said this) (I asked if a Burqa was OK, and the Apple guy got angry)
4. No silhouettes that indicate that Wobble can be used for wobbling boobs (yes – I am serious, we have to remove the silhouette in this pic)
5. No sexual connotations or innuendo: boobs, babes, booty, sex – all banned
6. Nothing that can be sexually arousing!! (I doubt many people could get aroused with the pic above but those puritanical guys at Apple must get off on pretty mundane things to find Wobble "overtly sexual!)
7. No apps will be approved that in any way imply sexual content (not sure how Playboy is still in the store, but …)

TechCrunch notes that Apple removed an app "that featured a popular fitness model in her workout clothe." It also asked if the ban would affect Sports Illustrated's swimsuit application. "The Apple employee wouldn't give a clear answer, but it was implied that the SI app would probably be removed as well," TechCrunch notes.

"Wobble iBoobs" might be a bit crude, but fundamentally, it's a joke application that some might say is no more offensive than "iFart" or "iPeePee" (both of which are on my phone.) It's also seems like an overreaction given that iPhones and iPods contain parental controls, and adult apps are listed with an "objectionable material" warning in the iTunes store.

It's Apple's store and device, so, the free-speech argument here doesn't apply. Apple can do as it pleases with the offerings sold under its name. If it wants to crack down on porn and paddle behinds and treat everyone like giggling kindergarteners, that's its right. If it wants to clean out useless or spammy apps that lure buyers with the promise of titillation, it can do that without harming developers who are a little more thoughtful or clever about mature subjects. It just takes more work. And a transparent policy. If this is accurate, Apple isn't serious about either.

The New App Store Rules: No Swimsuits, No Skin, And No Innuendo [TechCrunch]