Apple Tightens Adult Standards in App Store Again

Jan 28, 2009 11:30 AM PST
CUPERTINO, Calif. — Apple continues to tighten its standard for what constitutes adult content in the iPhone App Store.

The latest round of regulation involves an app called Wobble, which lets users add "wobble" points to any photo they have in their iPhone library. The chief end of this app — to make breasts shake — was so obvious that the app's developers focused on that perk in a promotional video.

But after approving the app, the brass at Apple want it cleaned up. They've asked the team behind Wobble to remove all references to "boobs" and "booty" from their marketing text.

Wobble developer Jon Atherton took exception to this, writing online that he personally found many other uses of these red-flag words, although not in the App Store but in its corporate neighbor, iTunes.

"Doing a search for 'boobs' in iTunes returns 143 results — many of them marked explicit, a search for 'booty' returns 150 items," he said. "Not surprisingly, Wobble appears at the top of the list in both search terms." Wobble has been burning up the charts in other ways, too, having reached the top spot in the Japanese version of the App Store.

Atherton added that Apple declined to explain why the standards for the App Store and iTunes are different. Apple maintains laxer standards in iTunes. Apple's terms of service do not prohibit adult content, instead warning users that they may encounter objectionable material.

In addition, the iTunes store applies an "explicit" tag to adults-only content, and adult writer Violet Blue maintains a podcast called "Open Source Sex" that's available though the iTunes podcast directory. On the flip side, Apple has rejected an iPhone app, an electronic book in this case, that used the word "fuck" in a sexual context.

Tech analyst Jason Kincaid said that Apple's policies might change in the future.

The ban on 'sexy' words isn’t particularly surprising given how new the App Store is," he wrote for TechCrunch.com. "Apple is still experimenting with new policies. For months it didn’t allow any ‘burp’ or ‘fart’ apps, which have grown to become disturbingly popular, and it only recently began allowing for developers to build their own web browsers. But the store has a rating system for a reason, and the arbitrary restrictions are tough on developers, who are left wondering what they’re allowed to write about and what they can show."

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