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Apple was having a good month until last week. Sales were up explosively -- at least, for the iPhone and iPod -- but all of that good news was trashed when the company first allowed a questionable application onto the iPhone and then killed it without explanation. Already, the tone surrounding Apple appears to be changing. It often seems as though Google and Apple are in competition to see who can have the worst PR department.
Just replying to the questions you posed in reply to my earlier post.
Let's cut through the PR crap. Answer these 4 questions, I'll do the same below:
Q1. Do you think 40 hours with no initial apology is fast enough and adequate response on an application that may put children at risk?
A. Obviously, the response time could have been better, and I agree a longer more personal apology should have been made.
Lets just think clearly through this process for a moment. A large corporation like Apple or Microsoft does not move as nimbly as a tiny 1 or 2 person business like yourself. First someone in PR probably had to sift through hundreds of e-mails before being alerted to the controversy. The App then had to be investigated and removed, this took half a business day. Your answer is that an apology from Steve Jobs should have arrived minutes or seconds later. Where is he at the moment? Does anyone know? For all we know he could have been on holiday.
With regard to the short apology that was issued, who wrote it? Did it have to be sent to management for approval? Was it sent back for editing? Who knows why it took another full working day. I myself believe the apology could easily have been made the same day. The only point I was trying to make was that your reporting was exaggerated. Your article said the application was available for several days and implied that Apple eventually almost begrudgingly issued an apology.
Q2. Should Apple protect free speech? For instance if there was a Bible application that upset a lot of Democrats, should Apple remove it? How about one that helped with birth control and Republicans objected to it?
A. Yes of course Apple should try to protect free speech. But this application didn't just upset political parties or particular groups. It was offensive to everyone!! How can they possibly defend such a toxic PR nightmare? As a backup argument you also add that babies may now be at risk because the application was removed, a direct contradiction to the question above where you say the application itself was putting babies at risk.
Rob, you also didn't address the point I made about the other "more open" App stores. Every single one of them would censor this offensive app. Yet you expect Apple to commit commercial suicide in order to protect free speech and encourage debate about this topic.
3. Should Gore do more than collect a check on Apple's board?
A. Yes of course he should. But you referenced an out of date Greenpeace propaganda site as proof that Al Gore has been sitting around on his behind doing nothing. That site has now been archived, because so much has changed at Apple in terms of their environmental policies. I think Al gore has had a lot more influence in this area than you give him credit for.
You didn't address this point either
Is Al Gore simply a yes man, or is he a lone dissenting voice among a rubber stamp board. I have no idea, I've never sat in on an Apple board meeting and neither have you. Are any minutes from their board meetings publicly available?
I'm not sure how Apple's board contributed to the financial crisis perhaps you could enlighten me.
4. Do you work for, or do you know anyone who works for, Apple directly or indirectly? If yes, in what context?
A. I live in a small rural town in the North Island of New Zealand. I have no political allegiances to either the Democrats or Republicans. When I was 19, about 17 years ago I had an accident and broke my neck leaving me a tetraplegic. Therefore, I have never worked or will ever work for Apple or any Apple related company. As part of my rehab I was provided with a Macintosh computer. I have used them ever since, even though they are horribly more expensive than PCs in NZ, because I have thousands of dollars invested in software for the platform. I have always had Windows in some form running on my Macs, and have been extremely happy with XP SP3 on my current Intel Mac. I prefer the Mac OS simply because that's what I am used to, and am less familiar with Windows.
I personally know a guy in Palmerston North New Zealand who exclusively repairs and deals in second Mac Hardware.
I once belonged to a Mac Users Group but let my subscription lapse years ago.
Being disabled, means that computers are a big part of my life. I like to keep up to date on all tech news. When I have time I like to read article discussions for the differing views and often funny responses. I rarely post my own views and your site is the only one I have posted my opinion about this story.
I was shocked and appalled like everybody about the baby shaker application. Apple deserves all the bad press they are getting for their flawed approval process. However, what other action could they take other than to remove this application that is offensive to everyone.
The main point I wanted to make, is there was no way for Apple to defend free speech in this case, no other App store would do it, so why should Apple? Because Al Gore happens to be on the board? That's just silly. I believe I pointed out many flaws in your reasoning, reporting and weblinks, using factual logical arguments. Your only comeback was to call me an Apple fanboy.
I must say sorry for calling you an idiot and I must also apologise for another long winded post.
You won't hear from me again. I can hear you saying good riddance already.
Thanks for your post and given your condition the time and effort you took to make it. Unfortunately the world we live in and the number of times PR folks have dropped in and pretended to be something they aren’t has me seeing things that clearly aren't always there. I appreciate the well thought through comments so we are far from "good riddance".
Q1 This is Apple where Steve Jobs is king. He doesn't have to wait for PR or anyone before he speaks. When there was a question on his illness he called the reporter and chewed him out personally. This is an issue involving children who could be injured or killed during a time when Apple's COO is saying Steve Jobs is involved in day to day decisions. Apple was getting direct calls from the Sarah Jane Foundation and didn't seem to step up with the apology until after a demonstration was being organized. If Apple can respond quickly to issues surrounding Steve Jobs health with Steve Jobs they should be able to respond to issues related to protecting children just as quickly. For Steve in particular who had a horrid reputation with children and now has several you'd think this would now be at least as big a priority as his own health was. I've followed Apple since the early 80s, when something is important they find a way to get it done quickly. I can think of nothing more important than protecting children.
Q2 The stated intent for this application which came out at the beginning of a week dedicated to protecting children was to bring visibility to the problem. Once Apple allowed it on their platform they took ownership of both the application and the message. They killed the application but did nothing to protect the message. I don't disagree with the first, but much like when they stopped using child labor to build some of their products but didn't move to make sure the now unemployed children didn't starve to death, they should have picked up the message. We both agree that the application was bad, protecting children is good and Apple shouldn't continue to just respond to negative criticism and forge the intent behind it. With child labor no one wanted Apple to actually help kill the children, in this case no one wanted the message stopped, they just wanted to method changed. Apple did both.
Q3 Apple didn't care about green and granted Greenpeace used this more as a platform to make a point than anything else. (I use Apple in much the same way honestly, you can make an important issue topical this way). However, there is a serious problem in much of the world with regard to boards not doing their jobs. It was sad that when HP's board actually tried to step up they did so badly and mostly got shot which set a rather bad example. In the case of Apple, and this became visible with the stock option scandal, it has been clear for some time that Apple's board has been a rubber stamp.
I admired one of the folks on Apple's board greatly and he is credited with helping me become who I am today, but he has been an empty suite on Apple's board and it is personally embarrassing. For Gore it appears clear he was brought on board to protect the company from government intervention (and keep Steve out of jail) but I think he should do more, and boards in general should be held accountable more often. I used this as a way to breach this subject. One thing you learn about politicians is that they are really good about taking credit for things, even things they don't do. Al Gore has never taken credit for anything except the time he covered Steve Jobs' butt.
Q4 Sorry for thinking you were anything but what you are. I'm afraid that's the world I live in, but I shouldn't have jumped to that conclusion and think it sad that I still halfway think you may not be who you say you are. I miss the days when I could take people at face value and hope you forgive me for not being as trusting as I once was. Thanks for the well thought out post!
It’s kind of hard to find where Enderle is going with this. An app passed Apple’s review process when it shouldn’t have. When made aware of the situation, Apple removed the offensive application and issued an apology. Seems like pretty standard PR to me. It’s not as if Apple developed the babyshaker app itself.
Then Endlerle appears to argue that there is some sort of educational utility in the Babyshaker app. But why? Because it then gives him the opportunity to chide Apple for censoring free speech!
How dare Apple remove the app?! Think of all the babies that are going to die as a result. It’s truly shocking. I mean right now there are innumerable iPhone owners out there with no idea how to quiet a baby down without resorting to shaking. Kudos to you, Mr. Enderle, for taking a vigilant stand against Apple!
Enderle's arguments are taken apart in full over here http://www.edibleapple.com/rob-enderle-is-a-moron/
What a joke.
So, and you clearly make my point, instead of either of us talking about Apple's earnings, reviewing an Apple product, or doing anything positive about Apple we are arguing whether Apple did the right thing with an application that demonstrated how to kill babies. It is fascinating to watch the Mac fans defend what Apple did. My mail suggests that singlehandedly you folks are doing wonders for Apple's market share.
The right thing would have been to block the application in the first place or pull it fast, issue a real apology from the CEO (who, according to Apple is involved daily) and publish a policy change to ensure it doesn't happen again. That's not what Apple did. A good PR group would have made sure the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome or the Sarah Jane Foundation was consulted on the response and made sure both were happy with it. Apple did neither.
As far an Apple PR being inept, I'm actually being very unfair so need to clear this up. The problem is that Steve Jobs has restricted Apple PR to a degree that they can't respond to things like this properly. It isn't that they don't have talented people; it's that these folks aren't allowed to do their jobs.
Shaken Baby Syndrome is serious. According to the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome www.dontshake.org every six hours a child is shaken and potentially injured in the US. 25%, that is one in four, die from their injuries. Once again, that is one out of four children. 80% of those who survive have permanent brain damage, that's 1 out of 5 who DON'T get hurt. There is no joke, this is not funny, read up on it, teach your children, stop the abuse.
Freedom is under siege. The last US Administration used fear to take away many or our freedoms and the current financial crisis is turning the country into a socialist state. Typically Freedom of Speech is the first to go and the kind of protections ensured by the FCC for TV and Radio don't apply to iPhones, iPods or any of the new digital devices and mediums yet. This too is a serious issue and should be discussed seriously.
I, for one, don't see anything really funny in either. Attacking me personally clearly plays well to the Mac faithful, but I doubt it really makes much of a difference. At some point you might want to stand for something important. Against the broad context of issues like this and what is going on in the world, I'm really not that important. Really, I'm not…
Seriously I'm talking about protecting children and free speech and your big thought is "Rob is a Moron"? Wish I knew a place where you could buy some perspective.
Rob, you're still not making any sense.
Apple reviews hundreds of iPhone applications a day. It mistakenly allowed in an app that should have been rejected. It immediately rectified the situation when it became aware of this. Why you seemingly expect Steve Jobs himself to issue an apology is beyond me.
How many babies do you honestly think were killed as a result of this app?
Shaken Baby Syndrome? Do you honestly think parents would start shaking their babies after using this application?
Also, this has nothing to do with Freedom of Speech. You can use an iPhone to browse the web and look at any website you please. Apple, however, has no obligation to promote or feature applications in its app store that it feels violates whatever moral code it chooses to uphold. This has absolutely nothing to do with Freedom of Speech. Similarly, NBC news has no obligation to present every side of a political point of view. The right to say what you want doesn't give you the right to say it on whatever platform you choose. Law 101.
You claim that you're talking about protecting children and free speech, and it's true, you are. But you're bringing it up out of nowhere, and using an obscure and now banned iPhone app as your starting point, all in a failed attempt to somehow paint Apple as the bad guy here.
This is the iPhone App Store.. Perspective? There are a lot more important places in the world to look for it than iTunes.
Thanks for bringing this up a level and actually talking about the issues, I appreciate that! The name calling thing gets really old after awhile.
Chrysler does quality control on thousands of vehicles a day, well they did before the market crashed, but one faulty rear hatch put them in a world of hurt. Companies will make mistakes, this one was avoidable and they way they handled it unforgivable. But you shouldn't take my word, please call the head of the Sarah Jane Foundation and ask him. Seriously it would be nice if one of you folks actually spoke to a source. Contact information is below and his post is also below. He brought up the concerns surrounding the potential for this application to cause children to be injured or killed and is more qualified than you or I to do so.
Patrick B. Donohue, Esq.
Founder, The Sarah Jane Brain Foundation
181 Broadway – Suite 300
New York, NY 10007
As far as Freedom of Speech, the issue I'm trying to raise here is that with other legacy media types there are rules about what can be put in and what can be removed from a communications platform like a TV or Radio. This application was positioned as something trying to bring attention to a problem and once Apple allowed it on their platform they took ownership not just of the Application but the idea that surrounded it. Removing it then became censorship. You argue they have the right, clearly you are correct, I'm arguing that maybe they shouldn't and taking this in the broader context of a new world where increasingly big companies like Apple and Google are controlling what we see and hear. I'm using Apple to raise the issue that censorship should probably not be up to companies and even governments should be watched in this regard. The power and authority to do something doesn't mean doing it is right. The US government has the power to torture; the question is whether it is right they use it. I think it is worthwhile to ask whether Apple, or any company with Apple's power including Microsoft and Google, should have this right.
The unfortunate reality is that were I just to write on these issues and not use Apple the piece wouldn't be read by many and it wouldn't make a difference. Doing it this way at least gives it the chance of doing something positive.
I do appreciate you actually discussing this, regardless of how you feel about me or Apple, the important thing is that the subjects of Children at risk and Free Speech get vetted. You and I won't really decide anything, that is up to folks with real power, but if enough people get interested in either topic problems that otherwise might occur might be avoided. The goal isn't to keep people from buying Apple products or to make any vendor rich; it is to make a difference. At the end of our lives it isn't the money we've made it’s the difference we make. Watching my very rich grandfather die badly taught me that.
I'm not critical of Apple to kill the company. I'm not that powerful and have no delusions that I ever will be. I'm critical because their marketing makes them topical and because I use the firm as a critical tool in my work. If they fail much of what I do goes with them.
While I agree that there are a lot of things more important than iTunes, there aren't many companies that can pull the traffic that an Apple story can pull. Traffic for me isn't money, it's influence and influence drives not only my business but my ability to make a difference.
Let me leave you with one thing other than my thanks for taking this up a level, if I didn't use Apple as the foil would you even be talking about either Free Speech or Shaken Baby Syndrome? I looked at your site, when do you ever cover hard news? Now look at what you've written over the last year how many things you've written about are truly important? Not topical, not cute, but truly important as each of these issues actually is. Do you now at least get what I'm trying to do?
I am confused by this article (Apple hatchet job) by Rob Enderle
I swear every time I read one of his articles, I lose several IQ points.
I am a user of Apple products, but I am not a rabid fanboy. I completely agree In this case, where Apple approved the baby shaking app they deserve severe criticism. However I cannot see how Rob can possibly argue at the same time that Apple should have also stood up for free speech.
So, I decided to investigate the articles that Mr. Enderle references, in order to try and understand his thinking.
"Apple was having a good month until last week. Sales were up explosively -- at least, for the iPhone and iPod -- but all of that good news was trashed when the company first allowed a questionable application onto the iPhone and then killed it without explanation. Already, the tone surrounding Apple appears to be changing."
How does a link to an article comparing an Asus netbook to a Macbook air illustrate that the tone surrounding Apple is changing because of bad publicity from the baby shaking App?
The article referenced compares a cheap low end 10" netbook with 9.5 hr battery, an atom processor, Intel GMA 950 graphics 1Gb of Ram running XP to an expensive more powerful 13" Macbook Air with 4.5 hr battery, a core 2 duo processor, Nvidia Geforce 9400M graphics, 2GB of Ram, multitouch trackpad and running the latest Mac OS X Leopard.
What conclusions can be drawn from this article?
a) Apple doesn't compete in the low end.
b) You pay more for a higher spec machine
c) Apple computers have a higher up front cost
Tell us something we don't already know.
"After the application had been available at the App Store for several days, Apple took it down without comment or explanation. That made it look as though Apple agreed it was a bad idea but didn't initially feel the need to apologize -- though eventually it did -- creating an image of a company that neither cared about the feelings of the people who were upset by the application or the partner that originally placed the application in the store."
Rob first slams Apple for approving the utterly distasteful Baby Shaking app in the first place, because it upset so many people. Then he slams them for not removing the app quickly enough and not providing a prompt explanation or apology to those offended.
He even thinks the truly disgusting developer deserves an explanation and apology, if you please.
I traced the timeline from various stories around the net. In reality the App was approved Monday and discovered on Tuesday night by a website called Krapps. The founder of Stop Shaken Baby Syndrome, Inc. then twittered about the story on Wednesday morning creating a storm of controversy. Apple then removed the offensive App later on Wednesday by 1:30PM and apologised for it on Thursday by 1:30 PM.
All up, from discovery, to removal and finally apology it took about 40 hours. How Enderle concludes that Apple created an image of not caring is beyond me.
Meanwhile from the actual developer's Web site --
"Okay, so maybe the Baby Shaker iPhone app was a bad idea." The rest of the site is devoted to information about Shaken Baby Syndrome. Alex Talbot, who appears to be the developer behind Baby Shaker, has still not responded to e-mailed requests for comment on the application.
Doesn't seem like they are too remorseful does it?
"Apple effectively entered as censor with a possible adverse impact: That one life that might have been saved will now be lost. It appears that both the initial acceptance and later removal of the application came without any deep review."
Enderle the schizophrenic writer then tries to argue that Apple should have kept the App to defend free speech, he doesn't know what purpose the Baby shaker App could possibly have, but argues it has served a purpose by creating discussion and lamely adds the point that now the removal of the App might actually lead to the death of babies that otherwise might have been saved.
Rob, are you seriously suggesting that Apple may now have caused babies to die? First, you argue Apple seemed uncaring by not removing the app and apologising quickly enough (total rubbish) now you are accusing Apple of being uncaring because the censorship will lead to the topic fading from media discussion thus causing babies to die.
Which is it? You can't have it both ways.
He then goes on to attack Al Gore because he belongs to the Democratic party and did not defend the developer's right to free speech. (I will address this later why he could not possibly do so.)
He even attacks Al Gore about not doing anything over the Greenpeace problem, by referencing an old, now archived Web site. The photos on the website, are also quite laughable. Greenpeace obviously wanting some propaganda shots, handed Apple keyboards to kids in a computer junk yard. What is laughable about the photos is that the Apple keyboards appear to be shrink wrapped to prevent leakage of toxins, while the absolutely monstrous mountain of PC hardware behind the kids is just sitting there open to the elements. I guess attacking the offending PC makers wasn't going to get as much publicity as a propaganda piece about Apple.
Poor old Rob also obviously missed that big orange sign at the top of the website that says:
"Nine months after this site started, Steve Jobs posted "A Greener Apple". He heard Apple customers ask for a green Apple. Big thanks to everyone who took part - you encouraged Steve to start being a green leader.
This award winning website is now archived, but discover how thousands of Apple fans got involved, the latest greener electronics developments and how to challenge the industry to go further."
Greenpeace lately have been pleased with Apple's progress (as shown by the archival of the site), but they are always pushing for better.
All of Apples products are now Mercury, BFR and PVC free. They have also calculated and tried to reduce the carbon footprint of every individual product. No other manufacturer does that. They were also on track to beat their 2010 re-cycling target by 2008.
It seems Al Gore has a lot more influence at Apple then Rob gives him credit for.
Turning schizophrehnic again, Enderle's next target is the Apple PR department.
"At the end of all of this, one has to be amazed at how bad the PR department is at Apple. Allowing this issue to actually result in public demonstrations against the company by mothers who have lost children seems to set the low bar for incompetence."
Once again, from discovery, to removal and apology it took about 40 hours.
No one seems to be holding the actual developer to the same standards.
" It is hard to believe how Apple could ever do worse than upsetting mothers who have lost children, coming down on the wrong side of censorship, and making Al Gore look like a fraud all at the same time. Now that's impressive -- even for Apple."
Rob, please explain to me, how Al Gore is meant to defend the free speech of the application developer while at the same time the PR department is meant to say the opposite to placate the mothers of babies? Are you suggesting Apple get even more horrendously bad publicity in order for the topic to stay in the media, thus saving babies? I don't know how you could suggest that a company should commit commercial suicide like that.
In the end, Apple chose to censor the App. Apple has always made it clear that they would be gatekeeper to the App store, that is nothing new.
Perhaps the developer could try his luck on the "more open" Android, Blackberry, WinMobile and Pre platforms. Rob do you think the developer would face less censorship there? Here's a clue, there isn't a snowballs chance in hell that the Baby shaker app will be approved by anybody.
This article is mess from start to finish, flip flopping from one side of the controversy to the other. The only common theme is a slam of Apple.
Only the insane Rob Enderle could write a hit piece on Apple, using two arguments that totally oppose each other, while trying to justify his reasoning with poorly formed ideas, backed up by weak, flimsy, outdated and just plain wrong evidence.
I'm not surprised that Apple PR department refuse to talk to Rob, every article he has ever written about Apple is a negative hit piece and complete hatchet job.
This story plummets to new depths of idiocy. Now that's impressive -- even for Rob Enderle.
How this guy continues to be quoted as a respected analyst is beyond me.
Boy I hope you don't actually work for Apple PR . First, you wrote nearly as much as I did AND checked all the links that probably should be in the definition of Apple Fan Boy. You must have been very desperate to prove this thing wrong that typically means a rabid fan or you work for Apple. I don't think it inconsistant at all to protect children and free speech. I don't see the two as an either/or thing.
Let's cut through the PR crap. Answer these 4 questions, I'll do the same below:
1. Do you think 40 hours with no initial apology is fast enough and adequate response on an application that may put children at risk?
2. Should Apple protect free speech? For instance if there was a Bible application that upset a lot of Democrats, should Apple remove it? How about one that helped with birth control and Republicans objected to it?
3. Should Gore do more than collect a check on Apple's board?
4. Do you work for, or do you know anyone who works for, Apple directly or indirectly? If yes, in what context?
The way I'd answer these questions is:
1. No, you should measure the response in seconds and the apology should have come from Jobs who Apple says is still involved in day to day operations.
2. Yes, every person in the US should advocate and champion free speech.
3. Damn straight. Rubber Stamp boards are what caused the financial crisis and the .Com crash. I'm sick of them.
4. Yes I know Phil Schiller, he was my first customer as an analyst.
How would you answer them?
By the way, to those reading this, I asked the head of the Sarah Jane Brain Foundation, who is very concerned that this application might actually kill children to post his open letter below. Please read it.
Kudos to WebObserver and JsrOck for being aware of the Constitution and the actual meaning of "free speech."
Mr. Enderle and others might benefit by reading the text (Article 3 in the bill of rights}:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
And what's with the gratuitous driveby Gore-bash??
Does Mr. Enderle check in with the publisher of Tech News World before he writes his column?
If so, I guess that means two folks should be signing up for the Bill of Rights refresher at summer camp...
I get your point that Apple doesn't have to comply legally with the Bill of Rights. But then I never argued that what they were doing was illegal. I argued it was inept.
However let's look at free speech in a digital world. Does a TV maker have the right to block content? A radio manufacturer? PBS exists to ensure access in that medium, but people increasingly using things like the iPhone and PC to access content what are the rules surrounding censorship? Could, for instance, Apple block Fox news because it was too conservative? Al Gore is on the board after all.
How about if they only allow pro-choice or pro-life, block gay material, block or give creationists the only access, or simply make sure everything provided fit a Democratic Party agenda? Back to Al Gore.
The FCC grants Apple a license, if Apple plays the role of Censor isn't the FCC granting Apple the right to violate the Bill of Rights that the FCC is supposed to support? Apple controls both the device and what goes on it. Why was that a problem when RCA (RCA was broken up several times) sold the TVs and was the network and it isn't in this current instance?
As far as the Al Gore drive by, I'm getting really sick of politicians who seem to say we should make sacrifices but never seem to make these same sacrifices themselves. Watching congress, both parties, enjoy the best health care system in the world while blocking health care reform is more than annoying and just one of a massive numbers of examples of hypocrisy. Al Gore, mister Global Warming, sits on a board for a company that has historically been on the list for least green firms according to Green Peace and should be personally appalled on a lot of levels with regard to this iPhone application. Evidently, in exchange for a big check, he isn't that sensitive to any of this. This is hardly uncommon, I'd just thought Gore was different, I'm disappointed he clearly isn't.
The world is changing; people clearly are forgetting certain freedoms. The last administration pretty much killed the right to privacy. If we lose Free Speech as well I doubt we'll like the nation that results. If you feel Apple, or any vendor, has the right to censor content without public rules or review in this digital age, I'll agree but this instance suggests to me that is something we need to fix before we look back longingly at the Free Speech we used to have and wonder what became of it.
While I agree that a removal of something electronic *could* constitute interfering with someone's free speech, I disagree in this case on several grounds. First, Apple removed something from its own network (the iTunes store). This is a privately owned and operated network - they set the rules, they own the store front, they control the content. Don't like it? Too bad. But, that doesn't technically prevent you from creating an iPhone app - you just have to use some cracking software to get it loaded onto your audience's phones. Not impossible. Second, the argument of free speech is misapplied with concerning companies. The software app was not an individual person standing on a street corner protesting some action or stating their opinion - this was a creation of software developed by a company (even if the company was a single individual). The courts have misappropriated 'free speech' to apply to the actions of companies and this continues to be carried further and further afield from the original intent of the purpose of the Bill of Rights.
I think you are viewing the world as it was not as it is. Just like RCA once had too much control and needed to be broken up. Increasingly people are using these devices to communicate, to get their news, and to entertain themselves. Just like we have rules surrounding age appropriate material, assuring that no one party gets all the coverage, and that there is public access to radio and TV networks so too in this new digital world should we assure that people aren't manipulated inappropriately by the new medium.
This application wasn't appropriate for children, may not even be appropriate for adults, and Apple removed it. But the way they did it makes it look like their action was simply a response to public pressure and not consistent with any set rule. More important what are the other applications they have blocked and were they blocked for political, social, racial, or sexual orientation reasons? In other words, we know Apple is censoring, what specifically are they censoring?
The FCC grants Apple a license, why do they appear less involved in these relevant problems with Apple than they are with TV and Radio content?
While typically I'd agree with regard to Free Speech and companies I think the rules change when the company owns the pipe to your home (AppleTV/Mac), your phone (iPhone), or your media player (iPod). By owning this pipe they could abuse their privilege and since the government generally grants this privilege in the first place maybe it's time to look at Apple the way we would look at any other company who could censor content. Critically.
LETTER VIA EMAIL
To: Board of Directors of Apple, Inc.
Mr. Tim Cook, Mr. Steve Jobs, Mr. William Campbell, Mr. Millard Drexler, Vice President Al Gore, Ms. Andrea Jung, Mr. Arthur Levinson, Mr. Eric Schmidt, Mr. Jerome York
Board of Directors of AT&T, Inc.
Mr. Randall Stephenson, Mr. William Aldinger, Mr. Gilbert Amelio, Mr. Reuben Anderson, Mr. James Blanchard, Mr. August Busch III, Mr. Jaime Chico Pardo, Mr. James P. Kelly, Mr. Jon Madonna, Ms. Lynn Martin, Mr. John McCoy, Ms. Mary Metz, Ms. Joyce Roche, Ms. Laura D’Andrea Tyson, Ms. Patricia Upton
CC: Desmond Runyan, M.D., Dr.Ph, Chair, Department of Social Medicine and Director, Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholars Program, The University of North Carolina School of Medicine
Robert Murphy, Ph.D., Executive Director, Center for Child & Family Health, Duke University
From: Patrick B. Donohue, Esq.
Founder, The Sarah Jane Brain Foundation
Re: OPEN LETTER to Apple Inc. and AT&T Inc. Boards of Directors
Date: April 26, 2009
I would like to begin by making it perfectly clear: The Sarah Jane Brain Foundation will not be soliciting nor will it accept one penny from either Apple Inc. or AT&T Inc.
However, as I have previously written, we have very grave concerns about Apple and AT&T’s inactions regarding the recent “BABY SHAKER” application situation.
Right now there are potentially 1000s of ticking time bombs (we don’t know how many people actually downloaded the BABY SHAKER application); however, all it will take is one 13-year-old (like the child who downloaded your 1 billionth application) who learns from his iPhone the way to quiet his 6-week-old sister is by shaking her as hard and as fast as he can and completely altering this child’s life and his family.
As you can see from many of the comments about your removal of the application, there is a considerable audience who still considers the concept of shaking a baby to be funny! Your actions have reinforced this “funny” concept which is exactly what prevention organizations have been working to overcome for years.
And finally, your legalistic, generic apology was clearly not directed towards the many families and victims suffering every day from the consequences of Shaken Baby Syndrome.
Here are three very concrete proposals I hope you will strongly consider and will demonstrate that both of your organizations are taking your corporate responsibility seriously:
1)work directly with Dr. Desmond Runyan and Dr. Robert Murphy (two of the leaders in the United States with preventing Shaken Baby Syndrome who are cc’d on this letter) to address the immediate children/adults who downloaded the “BABY SHAKER” app to ensure they have the proper understanding that shaking a baby to quiet a baby is wrong and harmful
2)Mr. Tim Cook to attend the 2-hour panel discussion Dr. Runyan is Chairing with other leading national experts about Prevention of Abusive Head Trauma on May 6, 2009, at The University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill; this is part of our 15-city National PABI Heroes Tour (www.pabitour.com)
3)After the 2-hour panel discussion, announce a joint effort between Dr. Desmond Runyan (UNC-Chapel Hill), Dr. Robert Murphy (Duke), Apple and AT&T utilizing the creative and technological resources of Apple and AT&T to work on the Prevention of Shaken Baby Syndrome and to offer a personal apology to the families and victims of Shaken Baby Syndrome
With any of these 1000s of ticking time bombs ready to go off, time is of the essence for your reply.
Way to pick up on Apple's censorship issues NOW. The *real* world of tech noticed this a loooong time ago. The reason it may not have gotten a lot of attention from various freedom of speech groups however is that its really not curtailing anyone's freedom of speech. Apple is well within their rights to do this. It may not be good for them, but there's very little any third party group can do other than waste their own time and resources on a battle they will not win. Apple has *never* been open about ANYTHING.
I'd also say its a gigantic stretch to say that Apple and Google have the worst PR ever. Journalists regularly hang on every word that ever comes out of Cupertino and to blame Google for the idiotic actions of a bunch of ignorant villagers is also stupendously stupid. A bunch of villagers BROKE the law and did so for such ignorant reasons. In fact, they did more to provoke the type of harm they were trying to stop by terrorizing an extremely scared individual just doing his/her job. To stand up for them is a monumentally unintelligent thing to do.
In any case, most people have already forgotten about Apple's stupidity, let alone about some villager's terrorist actions against Google. To somehow say they're vying for world's worst PR is ridiculously bad journalism as it shows a severe disconnect from the real world.
Agree that Apple has practiced control and censorship for a long time. It still appears inconsistent with the friendly image they seem to convey in their advertising and that inconsistency makes it topical. That's how this works.
Actually saying Google and Apple have the worst PR isn't a stretch. A number of us in the media rank the firms and Apple and Google consistently come in last. When you are a rising star, human or corporate, the media hangs on your every word. That celebrity and, in this instance, PR had nothing to do with it. When there is a problem like villagers attacking your vehicles to protect their homes, or an application that upsets mother's who have lost children, that's where PR is supposed to step in and contain the damage. Both Apple and Google have been largely ineffective at damage containment. What is particularly strange is most reporters I know are actually Apple fans so they have an advantage that most don't and yet, still, can't seem to execute well.
I'm sure the mother's who have been upset haven't forgotten and probably won't soon. Just that small group makes this worth writing about. Do you disagree?
One additional thought, you seem to think people protecting their homes from someone they believe is casing them for criminals are terrorists. Keeping unwanted attention from your children, spouse, and home because you believe they may come to harm may be an overreaction, but terrorism? Really? Dick Cheney is that you?
Granted, Apple's process for vetting the apps has something to be desired, but taking down a distasteful app is the right thing to do. There's nothing funny about an app where the object is to quiet an infant by shaking it to death. I also doubt that the board was consulted about this before taking it down.
Was this just a slow news day? This happened early last week and was tired by Friday. I'm sure there are other newsworthy tech topics to write about or did your shaken baby of an article get vetted out before being published. Oops... looks like another crappy op-ed article made it out anyway...
I think freedom of speech, protecting mothers who have lost children, and making sure political leaders aren't hypocritical is important. Glance over at "most popular", looks like a few folks agreed.
Perhaps you'd like to share what you think is more important?
This article hinges on the popular misconception that "free speech" applies to individuals or corporate entities.
The Constitutional right to free speech bars
Congress from making laws that abridge free speech. Period. Apple is a private company and so the Democratic Party platform on free speech has nothing to do with it. Axing the shaken baby app may be bad PR or bad corporate policy, but until Congress proposes regulating iPhone apps, you can leave politics out of it (and in any case, the mostly likely Gore to propose that would be Tipper).
I think politicians should stand for the same things in private and public life. If they believe in the sanctity of marriage for others than they should believe in it for themselves, yet we know that is often not the case. The same with things like environmental protection and Free Speech. You either stand for it or you find it unimportant, not just important when it comes to elections and awards. Gore is on the Apple board. I think he should have a more positive impact on that company than he does. He simply seems to take a check; most boards appear to be like that. Given the current economic conditions, I feel strongly boards should do their jobs.
it's a stretch comparing apple with google, no matter how you focus it. I completely fail to see how gore enters in your story - jealous of the money he receives from apple? Yes, aapl is down, but so is just about everything else in this continuing recession. Slow news weekend??
Rob, brilliant article. Personally, I found the baby shaker app offensive but censorship is a terrifying, slippery slope. By employing censorship in a hap-hazard, power flaunting way, Apple is eroding the trust and respect it has fought hard for. And, you're right, all the good qualities that Apple has going for it can effectively be undermined by a 3rd rate PR department.
So, if this censorship is so terrible, then why aren't you clamoring for porn?
It would take nothing less than the word of God himself to undermine Apple's PR. I'm actually surprised there isn't more violence in the news stemming from people mentioning they don't like Apple computers to the folk that have made claims along the lines of "The iPhone has changed my life" or call it the "jesus phone" (i'll admit i own an iphone 3g and i regularly complain about it). Have you seen the rabid fanaticism people have for the Apple brand? They don't even bend to actual facts, let alone PR.
I think you are mixing up marketing and the unique Apple Fan base (read "Cult of the Mac" for instance) with PR. Apple has a unique fan base which has often been compared to religious groups it is so loyal. They also do the best demand generation work in the segment. It doesn’t hurt that their products do hold up reasonably well. But PR, Public Relations, is about maintaining an image with the public. When something spins negative, as this thing did, is when PR is asked to step in and do containment.
Put another way, when everyone loves you and your products you don't really need PR, you need PR when someone screws up and you want to contain the damage. Yes the Apple fans are moving to protect Apple but PR, as usual, has largely been ineffective. Take a look at Steve's illness; they had two paths, either full disclosure or no disclosure. They did neither and his illness not only damaged Apple's valuation, it resulted in an SEC investigation. Now you could blame a lot of this on Steve, in fact he likely is the source of this particular problem, but it is a problem that needs to be fixed.
A lot of damage was done to Apple's brand in two days and it isn't over yet. Patrick Donohue, head of the Founder of the Sarah Jane Brain Foundation is rightfully still upset and seeking a better response, publicly, from Apple.
Link to current coverage here: http://tinyurl.com/dkrr8c