Apple banned a third prominent cartoonist from its app store, citing mockery of Tiger Woods and a policy against "ridiculing a public figure." If we're to let Apple censor our news, we should familiarize ourselves with the company's whims.
Apple's filtering of content is, of course, not technically censorship; we iPad and iPhone customers implicitly authorize the company to control our in-app iReading when we purchase the company's devices. And we're always free to read what we like on the Web.
But Apple's policies sure do hinder cartoonists who are trying to make a living selling their content to the many people who "own" Apple devices. And to what end? What's the purpose of Apple's anti-ridicule policy? It's hard to see how banning Tiger Woods cartoons improves the company's bottom line, enhances its image or makes the iPad and iPhone more family friendly. Ditto for the other cartoons Apple controversially banned, including one animation app from a Pulitzer Prize winner, which depicted Barack Obama and other leaders, and caricatures by Mad magazine's Tom Richmond, which deflated top national politicians.
Apple eventually reversed its decision to ban the latter two apps. But MSNBC.com's Daryl Cagle has not been able to win a reprieve for his app, "Tiger Woods Cartoons," which contains the work of other cartoonists, for whom he works as a distributor. And he says Apple hemmed and hawed and took three months to approve a different cartoon app he submitted.
Cagle seems as confused as anyone as to why Apple would allow the president to be made fun of, but not a very public figure like Tiger Woods. But he knows what he thinks about the long-term implications of Apple's policies: Disturbing. From Cagle's blog post:
Editorial cartoons are the best measure of the freedom of a nation. Cartoonists in Cuba have never drawn Fidel Castro; cartoonists in Egypt can't draw their President Hosni Mubarek; cartoonists in China don't draw their president Hu Jintao. Authoritarian regimes always turn first to control the cartoonists, and forbid them from "ridiculing public figures."
As newspaper audiences decline... editorial cartoonists, who are moving from print and the web to mobile devices, are finding that Apple's views of their profession can have a profound impact on what their future audience will be.
Below, some samples of the cartoons in Cagle's Tiger Woods app, followed by cartoons from Richmond and then a frame and screenshot from the Pulitzer-Prize winning animator, Mark Fiore. If Steve Jobs and his hired in-house censors think this sort of routine, even benign editorializing is beyond the pale, is it any wonder they also think adult consumption of pornography is harmful to children? And is it any wonder publishers are scared to hand the company's any more control over news distribution?