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ID: 92900

URL: https://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2018/08/infowars-app-will-stay-in-the-ios-app-store-heres-apples-reason-why/

Date: 2018-08-09

InfoWars app will stay in the iOS App Store—here’s Apple’s reason why

Apple, like Google and others, continues to monitor app content violations. Apple will continue to allow the InfoWars mobile app on its App Store even after removing almost all of the podcast episodes associated with Alex Jones' conspiracy-theory website from its platforms. The iPhone maker released a statement to BuzzFeed News explaining its decision to allow the InfoWars app to remain downloadable from its store. "We strongly support all points of view being represented on the App Store, as long as the apps are respectful to users with differing opinions, and follow our clear guidelines, ensuring the App Store is a safe marketplace for all," the company's statement said. "We continue to monitor apps for violations of our guidelines and if we find content that violates our guidelines and is harmful to users we will remove those apps from the store as we have done previously." The decision comes after Apple removed five out of the six InfoWars podcasts from iTunes and its other platforms for violating its hate-speech rules. Apple did not host the InfoWars content, but anyone with an Apple device could find and download the podcast episodes through Apple services. However, after that removal, some were perplexed when Apple didn't remove the InfoWars app as well. It appears that the InfoWars app hasn't done anything to violate Apple's App Store review guidelines for developers—or it hasn't been caught doing so yet. Those guidelines forbid apps containing content that's "offensive, insensitive, upsetting, intended to disgust, or in exceptionally poor taste." The InfoWars app hosts a news page that includes exclusive and curated news articles, a store page where users can buy merchandise, and a "shows" page where users can watch livestreams of InfoWars and its host Alex Jones' video podcasts. Since the app hosts livestreams rather than recorded videos or audio clips (like the removed InfoWars podcasts), it makes it harder to discover when the app itself has violated Apple's rules. Multiple tech companies, including Apple, Facebook, YouTube, and Spotify, have banned Alex Jones or removed InfoWars-related content from their platforms over the past couple of weeks. YouTube recently removed Alex Jones' and InfoWars' channels, but similarly to Apple, the InfoWars app remains available in the Google Play Store. Twitter remains a holdout in this situation, as it hasn't punished or banned Jones or InfoWars like other tech giants have. In a tweet thread, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey explained that Jones hasn't violated the company's rules, but Twitter will act if he does and it will "continue to promote a healthy conversational environment." Dorsey also said that journalists should "document, validate, and refute" the falsities and "sensationalized issues" that accounts like Jones' peddle.



ID: 92996

URL: https://techcrunch.com/2018/08/09/apple-defends-decision-not-to-remove-infowars-app/

Date: 2018-08-09

Apple defends decision not to remove InfoWars’ app

Apple has commented on its decision to continue to allow conspiracy theorist profiteer InfoWars to live stream video podcasts via an app in its App Store, despite removing links to all but one of Alex Jones podcast content from its iTunes and podcast apps earlier this week. At the time Apple said the podcasts had violated its community standards, emphasizing that it does not tolerate hate speech, and saying: We believe in representing a wide range of views, so long as people are respectful to those with differing opinions. Yet the InfoWars app allows iOS users to live stream the same content Apple just pulled from iTunes. In a statement given to BuzzFeed News  Apple explains its decision not to pull InfoWars app — saying: We strongly support all points of view being represented on the App Store, as long as the apps are respectful to users with differing opinions, and follow our clear guidelines, ensuring the App Store is a safe marketplace for all. We continue to monitor apps for violations of our guidelines and if we find content that violates our guidelines and is harmful to users we will remove those apps from the store as we have done previously. Multiple tech platforms have moved to close to door or limit Jones reach on their platforms in recent weeks, including Google, which shuttered his YouTube channel, and Facebook, which removed a series of videos and banned Jones personal account for 30 days as well as issuing the InfoWars page with a warning strike. Spotify, Pinterest, LinkedIn, MailChimp and others have also taken action. Although Twitter has not banned or otherwise censured Jones — despite InfoWars continued presence on its platform threatening CEO Jack Dorseys claimed push to want to improve conversational health on his platform. Snapchat is also merely monitoring Jones continued presence on its platform. In an unsurprising twist, the additional exposure Jones/InfoWars has gained as a result of news coverage of the various platform bans appears to have given his apps some passing uplift… Well, the bans were great for Infowars app downloads. Its the No. 4 news app in Apples App Store today, ranking above all mainstream news organizations. (And yes, Apple and Google deleted some Infowars content but kept their apps available.) So Apples decision to remove links to Jones podcasts yet allow the InfoWars app looks contradictory. The company is certainly treading a fine line here. But theres a technical distinction between a link to a podcast in a directory, where podcast makers can freely list their stuff (with the content hosted elsewhere), vs an app in Apples App Store which has gone through Apples review process and the content is being hosted by Apple. What percentage of people who discussed Infowars today understood the distinction between a podcast directory, actual file hosting, and whether software would allow manually adding a feed or listening to content? When it removed Jones podcasts Apple was, in effect, just removing a pointer to the content, not the content itself. The podcasts also represented discrete content — meaning each episode which was being pointed to could be judged against Apples community standards. (And one podcast link was not removed, for example, though five were.) Whereas Jones (mostly) uses the InfoWars app to live stream podcast shows. Meaning the content in the InfoWars app is more ephemeral — making it more difficult for Apple to cross-check against its community standards. The streamer has to be caught in the act, as it were. Google has also not pulled the InfoWars app from its Play Store despite shuttering Jones YouTube channel, and a spokesperson told BuzzFeed: We carefully review content on our platforms and products for violations of our terms and conditions, or our content policies. If an app or user violates these, we take action. That said, both the iOS and Android versions of the app also include articles that can be saved by users, so some of the content appears to be less ephemeral. The iOS listing further claims the app lets users stay up to date with articles as theyre published from Infowars.com — which at least suggests some of the content is identical to whats being spouted on Jones own website (where hes only subject to his own T&Cs). But in order to avoid failing foul of Apple and Googles app store guidelines, Jones is likely carefully choosing which articles are funneled into the apps — to avoid breaching app store T&Cs against abuse and hateful conduct, and (most likely also) to hook more eyeballs with more soft-ball conspiracy nonsense before, once people are pulled into his orbit, blasting them with his full bore BS shotgun on his own platform. Sample articles depicted in screenshots in the App Store listing for the app include one claiming that George Soros is literally behind Starbucks sensitivity training and another, from the science section, pushing some junk claims about vision correction — so all garbage but not at the same level of anti-truth toxicity that Jones has become notorious for for what he says on his shows; while the Play Store listing flags a different selection of sample articles with a slightly more international flavor — including several on European far right politics, in addition to U.S. focused political stories about Trump and some outrage about domestic political correctness gone mad. So the static sample content at least isnt enough to violate any T&Cs. Still, the live stream component of the apps presents an ongoing problem for Apple and Google — given both have stated that his content elsewhere violates their standards. And its not clear how sustainable it will be for them to continue to allow Jones a platform to live stream hate from inside the walls of their commercial app stores. Beyond that, narrowly judging Jones — a purveyor of weaponized anti-truth (most egregiously his claim that the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting was a hoax) — by the content he uploads directly to their servers also ignores the wider context (and toxic baggage) around him. And while no tech companies want their brands to be perceived as toxic to conservative points of view, InfoWars does not represent conservative politics. Jones peddles far right conspiracy theories, whips up hate and spreads junk science in order to generate fear and make money selling supplements. Its cynical manipulation not conservatism. Both should revisit their decision. Hateful anti-truth merely damages the marketplace of ideas they claim to want to champion, and chills free speech through violent bullying of minorities and the people it makes into targets and thus victimizes. Earlier this week 9to5Mac reported that CNNs Dylan Byers had said the decision to remove links to InfoWars podcasts had been made at the top of Apple — after a meeting between CEO Tim Cook and SVP Eddy Cue. Byers reported it was also the execs decision not to remove the InfoWars app. Weve reached out to Apple to ask whether it will be monitoring InfoWars live streams directly for any violations of its community standards and will update this story with any response.