Apple's censors remove NiN app and Anda's Game from iPhone store, citing "objectionable content"

Trent Reznor's Nine Inch Nails iPhone app, "NIN iPhone," has been removed from the iPhone store. Apple says that they censored it for "objectionable content." I just heard that they've also removed the comic version of my story Anda's Game for the same reason. The publisher says that they believe this beheaded orc is the objectionable content in question. So much for Apple as a benevolent dictator, well-suited to acting as guardian of what sorts of things you should and should not be allowed to run on your devices (remember, the company has also gone to the Copyright Office's DMCA hearing to protest the legalization of jailbreaking, hoping to make it illegal for you to install apps from outside of the App Store on your phone).

Apple Rejects Nine Inch Nails iPhone App


  1. So do they have any video games where the point is chopping the heads of monsters?

  2. I dunno…I don’t think I totally disagree with Apple’s stance. At least, thinking that Apple is something other than a brand and a big money-making concept can lead you into trouble.

    Consider Nintendo: They deliberately move away from very hard adult-oriented games and favor family-oriented content. It’s a brand and a closed loop system and parents can be reasonably confident that Nintendo games won’t have rapes or mass murder in ’em.

    Should Apple be any different? They want to try to create a sort of branded sandbox in their whole iTunes world. To think that they’d do anything else might arguably be naive.

    The real thing to do is to start pushing something like Microsoft to equip Zune to support an open model.

    Of course, I am fully aware of and largely in agreement with the concept that the device you buy is YOURS and you should be able to control the content that goes on there. But I don’t see how that argument extends to what Apple makes available through the iTune store. And given the brand they clearly have tried to build, I can see them exerting themselves in order to prevent iPOD from going an open route.

  3. Someone who knows more programming than I do should write a linux for the silly thing. So those who have bought it already can own it after all.

  4. A couple of corrections:

    The application is called “nin: access”.
    The application has not been removed, the update has been rejected (it is still available on the AU store).

  5. There aren’t any parental controls on the iPhone or the store. I personally don’t believe in censoring the world for children, but I’m not going to criticize Apple for giving people leeway to disagree.

    A much more salient criticism is that they haven’t solved this problem yet, forcing them to deny content to everyone. Parental controls and content advisories are not technically challenging, but Apple chose to give other things priority, and now they’re stuck with this foolishness.

  6. If you don’t want to be subject to Apple’s whims, don’t buy an iPhone. There are plenty of other perfectly capable phones out there (such as Blackberries, Android phones, and even WinMo phones) which allow you to install whatever you want without the hassle of “jailbreaking”.

  7. Apparently you can buy ‘Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner’ on iTunes, though.

    Decapitation isn’t equal opportunity, it appears.

  8. #7: as the unhappy owner of a Windows Mobile device, I would hesitate to call them ‘perfectly capable’. ‘Occasionally usable’ would be nearer the mark. God, I hate it.

  9. Shocking that they’ll allow a video game featuring kissing an orcs neck, but will censor someone cutting it off. Wait a minute, my censorship meme is on backwards…

  10. I don’t think Apple needs to worry about making the iPhone content suitable for children. Do they do the same thing with iTunes? I’d hope not.

  11. Apparently, Orcs are the last minority that it is acceptable for Mr. Doctorow to discriminate against!!1!


  12. It’s a shame how Apple can cripple such an ingenious piece of hardware (and software!) with ridonculous licensing restrictions.

  13. What puzzles me is that Apple has an age rating system when it comes to games, but for some reason, never thought that this would be worth implementing for non-game applications as well. Of course, there are bound to be issues with an arbitrary age rating system as well (MPAA, anyone?), but arbitrarily preventing children from buying an app is still a step up from arbitrarily preventing everyone from buying it.

  14. @Keeper of the Lantern: It’s one thing for first-party Apple content to be held to an all-ages standard, and I’m OK with that. It’s another thing for content licensed from third parties to be held to that same standard, and that’s where it gets troublesome.

    For yet another Nintendo analogy: With a few exceptions, most of their first-party games do tend to be rated Everyone or Teen. Yet there’s no shortage of Mature-rated games made for the Wii and DS by other companies and given Nintendo’s seal of approval; there’s even a Grand Theft Auto game for DS now.

  15. I think I agree with Keeper of the Lantern mostly. It’s Apple’s brand and they have a right to protect its image. You are free to not buy an iPhone if you don’t like it.

    What is unfair though is that you have no way of knowing if your app will be rejected by them until it is already complete. If they’re going to censor things based on internal subjective criteria then they need to have a system where developers can submit app ideas to find out if they are acceptable before spending all the time and effort to build it.

    Imagine if Nintendo forced developers to deliver completed games before evaluating them for appropriate content.

  16. this is bullshit because they sell the same objectional content in it’s original form, music, on iTunes. Fucking hippcrates.

  17. I believe Apple is doing a great job of maintaining their image as an elitist company charging higher prices for less features and removing all choice from the consumer’s burdensome life.

  18. The sun rises, the sky is blue, and Apple thinks it can tell its users what to do with what they’ve bought.

    Dog bites man, in other words.

  19. Windows Mobile:

    Want to tether? There’s an app for that.

    Want to chop monsters’ heads off? There’s an app for that.

    Want to listen to NIN? There’s an app for that.

    There’s an app for just about … everything.

    (p.s. I will be disgusted by your baby shaking app, but will fight for your right to make it)

  20. It’s Apple’s right to say what they will and won’t sell at their app store. My problem is with them trying to prevent others from making and distributing apps outside of their store. Why don’t they just tell you who you can and can’t talk to on “their phone”, it’s not like we buy the stupid things with our own money, right?

  21. Apple’s problem is the staggering number of submissions and therefore the relatively low training of the average evaluator, combined with the level of development needed in any change to a system with this much traffic. They’ve move a billion apps. It’s hard to be both reliable and precise in that circumstance. If your app is rejected, change it and resubmit. Don’t assume you know why it was rejected. The next evaluator will be a different person with a different level of training and a different understanding of their policies.

    Compared for Facebook, they’re saints.

  22. My reaction: The capriciousness of Apple’s decisions is is a large part of why I haven’t given in and bought an iPhone/iTouch. I don’t know that I completely object to their having an editorial policy, but it should be a clear, consistent, published policy so developers — and buyers — know exactly where the lines lie.

  23. Someone answer this for me please.
    Firstly- I (thankfully, from the look of certain things) live outside the US, and don’t have such a closed mobile market where the service providers get to decide how you use your phone.
    I have a Nokia N82, bought unlocked, and I can do what I please with it without any sort of jailbreaking or anything. I can download applications from anywhere(over wireless or GPRS), install them via bluetooth or USB cable and no one gets to stop me.

    Why are people so tolerant of Apple’s super restrictive policy in everything you do? Unless you jailbreak the phone you cannot enable several features- that’s like having to rebore your brand new car’s engine because otherwise it will only run on a particular brand of gas!
    Correct me if I’m wrong, or this has been fixed in newer firmware- I read in one of the first reviews that you cannot use any of the songs you add to the iPhone as a ringtone!

    From an outside perspective- the whole iPhone ecosystem only serves to line Apples pockets- starting with being tied to a separate usage plan and service provider, to having to pay for everything that you download.
    And for what, other than a pretty UI? It can’t even truly multitask and run apps in the background- Symbian has had this capability since the S60 OS debuted in 2002!
    I have seen a (jailbroken) iPhone, and played with the UI. It got old after about 5 minutes- when I found I can’t do many of the things I’ve been taking for granted for years on Nokia/SonyEricsson handsets.
    S60 does not have a pretty UI, but the OS is rock solid robust and has sold millions of handsets over the years, and has a huge ecosystem of 3rd party apps right from the start.
    The iPhone has a nice UI for a newb user who’s never seen a smartphone before, but scratch the surface and you see how much it lacks and how much it restricts you. (unless you jailbreak it and void its warranty)

  24. fook apple… they’re gey (not the ok kind)…

    I’ve got others that I can fork ova’ dough to with moar bang for keeping me boxed in…again fook apple and it’s ‘kore’ groooopies too.

  25. @3 Keeper of the lantern

    The problem with that is analogy is that you can make mature titles for nintendo’s hardware and sell it to people who want it to play on nintendo systems.

    Nintendo does not prevent games with the content you describe from being made for and played on their systems, they simply don’t produce it themselves. I wish Apple was more like Nintendo in this regard.

  26. #31 wants to deliver the last blow to the dead horse, eh? Well, I just showed them! hahahaah! whahahahaah!!!!!

  27. I think that you can thank the geniuses that came up with that baby-shaking app, Cory. That story had a lot longer life, and a lot farther distribution, than the app itself. In other news, big corporation errs on the side of covering its ass, no film at 11.

  28. @Gilbert Wham: YMMV, I guess. I have WinMo 6.1 on the Samsung Omnia, and have had no problems with it at all. Anda’s Game on it? Well, since I installed the .cbr/cbz reader, that’s no problem too :)

  29. I’ve been happily shooting Nazis on my iPhone for the better part of a month now. I guess if you’re an historically significant (whatever that might mean) game developer such as iD Software, you get cut some slack.

    Double standards are nothing new.

  30. Here’s the thing. Apple isn’t my mother. It’s just that simple. Since they’re trying to play the role of my mother, I’m offended. They’re not fit to lick her shoes. As a literary agent, and one of the best in the business, she knew far better than to embrace censorship. Apple’s simply not that smart. They only wish they were.

    But they’re a US corporation, and these have uniformly abysmal records when it comes to social responsibility. They typically interpret it as hiding from lawyers rather than protecting, or at least recognizing, the citizen’s rights to make informed choices for themselves, not to mention the responsibility to live with those choices. This error is of course compounded by like actions in our legislature, who seem determined as a body to do the exact opposite of what our constitution requires consequent to their oaths.

    So, while disgusted with Apple, nothing new here on any level. I’ll be keeping an eye out for a competitor that doesn’t think it should play the role of my mother, though.

  31. It’s more ridiculous than you might think. I was looking at Craigslist apps for the phone today, and the personals sections aren’t searchable by the app because of Apple’s content standards.

    Of course, Safari has no such restrictions.

  32. Actually, that BabyShaker app is a perfect example of what pisses me off about censorship.

    That app is obviously a dark, dark gag of sorts, and seeing how riled up people are over it I think I kinda like it!

    Will it encourage people to kill their babies by shaking them? I doubt it. Moreover, it actually subtly reminds the user that shaking a baby is actually a bad idea. In other words, I’d bet this thing will actually save a few baby’s lives (ie, many baby shakers probably don’t realize what they’re doing).

    So just to enforce political correctness, the app will get pulled even though it was only a joke and even though it’s impact long-term would probably be slightly positive.

    PS: As a 6th grade kid we used to tell “dead baby jokes” which I’m sure would shock and dismay the adults. But did those jokes turn us into a pack of little baby killers? Nah…

  33. I was thinking of buying an i phone. The main reason the apps and I really wanted to try out the NIN app since I thought it was modern and revolutionary. It was the first app on my list to download.

    Now.. I am not sure at all. If Apple is going to regulate ( power control trip )the content then there’s no way I am locking myself in a 3 year contract and buying their phone.

    Nicely done Apple, way to swoosh away your potential customers.

  34. The baby shaker app comes across as something serious, not a gag. It’s a realistic baby (a photo), and there are no touches of humor about the thing. It crosses the line between dark humor and just sick. It’s the difference between Weekend at Bernie’s and a snuff film. The baby shaking app ain’t funny.

    Before the baby shaker app came out, Apple rejected a cartoony game where the player pops out babies for welfare money.

    I think there’s something very screwy with the iPhone committee.

  35. @28 RexDude:

    Shirley([sic]!), you can see that style trumps substance the vast majority of the time over here. Hence the fantastic popularity of Apple. I overheard an acquaintance of mine specifically saying “[the iPhone] is the greatest piece of technology ever invented.”


  36. The primal urges need to be controlled, because otherwise those who create the rules won’t be in control. It’s the ultimate powerplay.

  37. A friend of mine referred me to this page a few days ago. As of mid-August 2009, both the NiN app and Anda’s Game are available as free downloads in the store; I’ve actually downloaded both. I like Anda’s Game (though the navigation confused me at first); I haven’t tried NiN yet.

    With the release of iPhone OS 3.0 (June 17 according to the Wikipedia), Apple put parental controls in place; you can turn them on and hand the phone to your kid, then turn them off when you get the phone back. I’ve found that useful; I’d rather my 4-year-old not have unrestricted access to apps when he plays Sketch.

    I’m guessing that Apple wanted NiN and Anda’s Game to get appropriate age classifications. You’re free to guess otherwise.

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