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Apple strikes US drone attack-reporting ‘Metadata+’ from App Store

Metadata+ app removal

As long as there has been an App Store, Apple has practiced strong discretion over which apps it approves and which it doesn’t allow on the iPhone and iPad. This has sometimes meant controversy for Apple, as its judgement is called into question when apps that were once approved are sometimes pulled for questionable reasons. Metadata+, an app that sends iPhone users alerts when a US drone strike leads to death, is the latest casualty, The Guardian reports

The Intercept editor Josh Begley launched the app last year to highlight the United States’ use of armed drones for airstrikes overseas using data from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.

According to Begley, Apple offered this explanation for pulling Metadata+ from the App Store: “Your app contains content that many users would find objectionable.”

In a politically high pressure climate, Apple similarly removed apps and games that used Confederate Flags in icons earlier this year, asking developers to change their artwork before re-submitting them to the App Store.

The whole function of Begley’s app is what’s being challenged here, however, so a simple fix is unlikely unless Apple changes its position. Speaking at Box’s enterprise conference just yesterday, Apple CEO Tim Cook said businesses have a responsibility to voice policy positions as Apple has done in the past when governments move too slow.

Top image: The Guardian

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  1. chrisl84 - 8 years ago

    “Your app contains content that many users would find objectionable.” First images of flags and now political facts, well done Zac, well done. Freedom of the Press

  2. rogifan - 8 years ago

    I’m curious who would download something like this. I get enough notifications as it is. The last thing I need is my phone beeping at me when somebody dies.

    • Greg Smith - 7 years ago

      People who care about when their country’s military murders people in another country.

  3. drgeert - 8 years ago

    Good thing that this news is on 9to5Mac.

    Postponing my iPhone 6s purchase until Apple has reversed this.

    • Steven Mason - 8 years ago

      You would justify the non-purchase of a phone of which you can put your own content on there for a decision when Apple have many other issues that they have with in their own company that still continues.

      sounds like crap to me.

      • drgeert - 8 years ago

        You mean the sweatshops, I’m not 100% sure about Apple not taking their responsibility there.

        Blocking an app for sharing unwelcome but relevant news is hypocritical and an example of how I do not want to be controlled by their ecosystem.

        Besides I was unaware of this amount of drone attacks by the US and I’m shocked. By reacting this way I hope it gets more attention.

        Of course my reaction would be pointless if I did not talk about it :-)

  4. charismatron - 8 years ago

    What’s the word when government and business become more or less one and the same? There must be a word for that, hmm . . .

    Unless there’s something objectionable about the app as it appears on the store during browsing, I get it. But users– i.e. financially-strapped independent news reporters or anti-war activist groups–would download this for obvious reasons. The ONLY user to object to the reporting of these facts would be the U.S. gov’t and/or its interests and allies.

    And notice the quote, “would find objectionable” and not “have found objectionable” (i.e. misreporting of facts). Apple doesn’t even present a case scenario where any users have actually complained. And we all know how much Tim likes to cite his numbers! Way to go, Apple. :(

  5. Lucas Mariani - 8 years ago

    apple “strikes”? that title is in pretty bad taste, in my opinion.

  6. vkd108 - 8 years ago

    The above-linked Guardian article reveals the app author, Josh Begley, has a Twitter account that does the same thing, recording Drone strikes:

    “He runs a Twitter account called Dronestream that performs the same role, while his other iOS app Ephemeral+ also records drone strikes, but – likely because it does not mention this in its App Store listing – has yet to be removed by Apple.”

  7. srgmac - 8 years ago

    I don’t understand this…no one is forcing you to download an app from the App Store. It’s not like this is porn or something. Who exactly is finding this app objectionable, and for what reason(s)?

    • It’s not that the app is or would be considered objectionable, it’s the content presented by the app. And that’s all part of the purpose of the app. You’d have to be a non-human not to find the content objectionable. The drone strikes and the loss of life are deplorable – “objectionable” is sugar-coating it.

      But it’s news. And important at that. The truth hurts sometimes and Apple shouldn’t be censoring factual content simply because it’s “objectionable” – like Tim Cook mentioned, sometimes a company has to voice policy positions, and sweeping this under the rug is absolutely sending the wrong message on Apple’s behalf.

      • srgmac - 8 years ago

        So you are saying I’m not human because I don’t find this content objectionable? I don’t follow that kind of reasoning…It’s not graphic, violent, porn — it’s text and information (notifications). People who report on this kind of stuff found this app very useful, and not objectionable at all. If this kind of information is objectionable to anyone, then maybe they also shouldn’t read the New York Times / Washington Post / The Guardian / list goes on…

  8. Amarand - 8 years ago

    Does it depend, a little bit, on where the information is coming from? How reputable is the source? If it’s coming from FOA releases, okay. But if this is coming from the ground, it may not be factual. It may be considered enemy propaganda, at a certain point. Also, the posts I see above are clearly editorialized. Does it matter by who? If this were merely reporting the facts, that’s one thing (maybe). But what I’m seeing in the screen captures above is clearly not fair and impartial presentation of facts. This is most likely what Apple is objecting to.

    • Amarand - 8 years ago

      Also, having thought about this for a few minutes, I do wonder if collecting and “reporting” all of this information in one place, and then blasting it out to all those with the app, might not be considered aiding foreign intelligence agencies. I mean, it’s real-time intelligence gathering and dissemination of foreign war-time information. Seems a little dicey and maybe light-treason? Do you really want the enemy to know where you’re striking without investing anything but an iPhone and a $0.99 app?

    • srgmac - 8 years ago

      Then perhaps Apple should ban the New York Times, Washington Post, and every other newspaper in existence. They also report on military strikes, and have factual inaccuracies sometimes, and are of course editorialized.


Avatar for Zac Hall Zac Hall

Zac covers Apple news for 9to5Mac and hosts the 9to5Mac Happy Hour and 9to5Mac Watch Time podcasts.