Apple rejects "Angry Syrians"

Frederic Jacobs produced an iOS app called "Angry Syrians," which was apparently blessed by Rovio. It was intended to raise awareness of the ongoing bloodbath in Syria. Apple rejected it because "We found your app contains defamatory or offensive content targeted at a specific group, which is not in compliance with the App Store Review Guidelines." (the defamed and offended group in question is the brutal Assad regime and its supporters). (via Hacker News)


  1. Sorry, Cory, I’m with Apple on this one. If the game was called “Angry Assad” — which is actually a better title, if I dare say so myself (and I just did), then it wouldn’t violate the TOS, IMHO.

  2. Hmmm, a company started by a Syrian-American doesn’t want to distribute a game called “Angry Syrians?” Intent aside, that title can leave quite the impression.

    1. Syrian-American? Because it’s in his genes? 

      His parents gave him up for adoption.  

      1.  Yes it’s in his genes. Adoption doesn’t affect that. Just like an African-American is still an African-American, even if he or she has been adopted.

          1.  Maybe it’s not about the politics and about the title. The parenthetical aside is pretty editorial; is it ridiculous to think that the “defamatory content” was the title, and the defamed are Syrians?

            This whole thing reminds me of the “Fighting Sioux” nickname, and how white people claim it’s to honor the Lakota’s traditional military might or what have you. It could just as easily be saying they’re a bunch of violent thugs. I think “Angry Syrians” as a title is similar.

      2. So when exactly does someone get to have an ethnic identity? It was in his genes. I’m fifth generation American, but I’m still Mexican-American.

        Point of interest, the original article mentions Jobs’ ethnicity as well.

        1. When you live in that ethnic group and share most of their values and customs and language.


          1.  That definition is extremely narrow. Were it taken seriously it would mean that even someone with a reteplluerb approved ethnicity would lose it as soon as they emmigrated to a country where their ethnicity was rare.

            While culture and language are important characteristics of race / ethnicity surely it is obvious that someones genetic background is also a strong factor?

            That being said, I agree completely with your original point. This ban is clearly nothing to do with the identity of the biological father of Apples founder.

          2.  DeargDoom,

            Genetic background is NOT a strong factor.  Think about this for just a second.  If I adopt a child from Germany but systematically mislead the child into thinking she’s genetically Irish will she nonetheless magically start learning German?  Start having mysterious cravings for sausage and beer?  Of course not.

            The more serious problem is that if  I have raised the child to know Irish history and folklore and to speak Gaelic, strongly weighting genetics as a determinant of ethnicity would suggest that this woman should be German and not Irish even though she does not have any exposure to German culture and her whole life is based on Irish culture.

            The only thing retepslluerb is missing is self-identification.  That neatly takes care of your objection.  Genetics is not (and shouldn’t be) a factor at all.

  3. I can understand why a rejection was needed, but that was a very unintellectual reason that they gave. It saddens me (as a longtime Mac user) that such a technologically successful company is somewhat lacking in philosophical vision.

    1. I’m not certain (if I were in the seat of someone rejecting an app), that I’d bother to take the time to compose a philosophical argument for something like this.

      I kill a spider with the first book I grab, not with the best book in my library.

      1.  Which is a great analogy if you deal with a lot of spiders trying to raise awareness of the situation in Syria.

    2.  they are not all that thorough with their explanations for bans. They just site the fact that you have been rejected and therefore are in violation of apple’s guidelines by virtue of your rejection.

      Best thing to do is re-name and re-submit. 9/10 it will get approved even though nothing was really changed.

    1. Apple never made their marketplace a platform for political speech so it really isn’t censorship per se. It is like when people try to put giant campaign signs in their yard which disrupt traffic and are ordered to take them down. This isn’t censorship or a violation of their free speech because they have other appropriate outlets e.g. a smaller sign or renting billboard space. The app creator is using an inappropriate forum to get his message out.

      1. Why on earth should a phone app be an ‘inappropriate’ forum for political messages?  The app is fast becoming one of the most important general-purpose communication tools in existence.  Apple certainly didn’t object to, say, the TED talks app – which inherently contains more discussion of how to change the world than just about anything else ever could.

        This isn’t a violation of free speech rights, because Apple isn’t the government.  But it’s the very definition of censorship.  There are concepts you’re not allowed to mention in Apple’s world.

        1. As long as Apple approves or rejects apps they exercise some editorial control. If they were to approve this app they’d allow themselves to get dragged into a civil war (this app is about dropping freaking bombs on a non-fictional human being) and take sides, which would piss off _somebody_ (not just the Assad government). Political caricature involving bombs is a touchy subject as we’ve learned, especially in the Arab world.

          The angry Hitler-comparison-wielding author has it exactly backwards: Apple doesn’t support Assad, as he claims, they actively avoid taking sides in a conflict far away. Smart move.

          1.  They could have neatly forestalled this problem by not signaling that they would impose draconian editorial review on the entire app store.  They’ve created the expectation of censoring political speech in the app store.  They didn’t have to do that.  It was a political and economic choice to do so.  Had they made the choice to allow the app store to be a venue for political expression then they could allow this without being seen to take a side.

            And that’s one of the reasons I don’t buy Apple.

      2. So let me see if I parse your definition of censorship correctly.  It’s not censorship if

        1. it’s applied consistently
        2. there are other places people can go to speak?

        That seems like a pretty narrow definition that would pretty much suggest that censorship does not exist at all outside of actual totalitarian states.

  4. I think I’m with Apple on this one.  We tend to look at the Syrian conflict as a purely political dispute with Assad and his henchmen as the oppressors and the rebels as heroes.  But the conflict in Syria is more complicated than that and involves ethnic and religious divisions that are centuries old.  The rebels are mostly Sunni Muslims while the supporters of the regime are mostly the Ismaili minority.  Caught in between are Orthodox, Catholic & Syriac Christians as well as the Druze, all of whom have been sheltered in the protection of the Assad regime. Invariably, taking sides in this fight takes on  religious and ethnic dimensions. 

    1. and there is that slight matter of geopolitics, you know… imo the benefit to syrian people and they themselves are sadly the least important in this whole mess. just look what wonders “democratic revolution” brought to libya. as for “sectarian” stuf… BS. they’ve been living happily together all that time and now all of a sudden, “mysteriously” they’re at each other’s throats. don’t be naive, people. i’ve lived through the balkan wars and the “ancient hatreds” story is pure western propaganda BS.

    2.  The Assad regime is systematically using heavy weapons on civilian populations, then sending in soldiers to torture, rape and gut whomever they can get their hands on. There is nothing complicated about the atrocities being committed or who is ultimately responsible for them.

  5. Apple also rejected a Chinese app, that targeted the Japanese in a similar vein. Apple and its store is not a democracy, we should not expect to behave like one. Nor should we want it to.

  6. I’d have rejected it too, because it’s really lunkheaded and dumb.  The fact that it incorporates an entire ethnic group/nationality in its name guaranteed that it would be marked as offensive.  Trying to make this into a surprise or a scandal is just trolling.

    Some people expect a highly trained panel of experts in an Apple conference room slowly and judiciously weighing the potential merits and drawbacks of a prospective app, and each rejection carefully crafted and reflecting a nuanced statement of Apple’s values, and feel outraged when something is rejected with an imprecise form answer.  But if you had that, everyone would be outraged that it took twelve months to approve each app. 

    1.  “Angry Americans”
      “Angry Canadians”
      “Angry Mexicans”
      If you’re offended by any of those then you need to stop sipping the liberal kool aid* and think long and hard about why.  And then consider that “Angry Syrians” is not actually any different.

      *I am a staunch liberal.  But I’m just starting to realize how many people are liberals for absolutely terrible reasons.

  7. It is pretty awesome what humans can justify to themselves.  Apple rejected an app expressing anger at mass slaughter and a brutal dictatorial regime?  I can understand why Apple did that an agree.  In fact, it is a good thing.  [insert explanation formed through an epic case of cognitive dissidents as why this is okay here]

    1. I think you mean dissonance, unless that was intentional, in which case bravo!

      But let’s keep things in context, the App store is, a store. Not a government or forum for debate. If they were blocking political websites through Safari then it would be a very different conversation.

      Also I’m sure it was rejected due to its name, not its content; abs the name is more likely to offend Surians than any regime.

      1. “I’m sure it was rejected due to its name, not its content” that’s just what the Apple overlords want you to think. The company of Apple obviously has a huge stake in protecting the Assad regime and is using their app store to ensure that said regime stays in place because, as we all know, a game on your iPhone will “raise your awareness” to the point where you will totally do something, whatever that something even is.

      2.  “Cognitive Dissidents” is a fantastic phrase.  Maybe too clever for a band name, though.  Trivia team name?

        1. “Syrians” is generally construed to refer to citizens of Syria. “Arabs” refers to an ethnicity. In fact, most Syrians are Arabs. “Jews” refers to an ethnicity or a religion. It’s comparing apples and dicots.

        2. Would Angry Democrats be approved?  Would Angry Moms be approved?
          The answer might very well be no due to some prudish and opaque policy or another, but that sounds like an excellent reason to be deeply skeptical of ever letting the Apple model become the standard.  

          People are replacing their computers with these devices.  On iOS, the device is locked down so that you can’t install third party software.  There exist people in this world that have dumped their PCs for a tablet and phone and managed to walk it backwards so that they now can no longer physically install non-approved applications on any of the their computers.  Apple is moving towards doing the same on their PC OS.

          You might be comfortable living in a world where all programs must be approved by a prudish corporate master, but I am not.  

          1. It’s an app, what controversially named apps do you currently have installed on your computer?

            Genuinely, I couldn’t care less. As many have said, change the name and resubmit, this is clearly preplanned news fodder, ‘look how our controversially named app didn’t get through the app store because it was controversially named’. A big meh from me I’m afraid.

          2. If you think “Angry Syrians” is a “controversially named app”, then I understand why you give this a big “meh”.  With that level of prudishness, it is pretty hard to imagine what sort of blocking you would be against.  I am guessing you probably would be horrified by a porn app too?  Apple has deemed tits to be too “controversial” to be allowed on your iOS device.  

            The larger point is that if iOS is the future of computing, than the future of computing is a place where your device will be locked down and you won’t be able to install anything your prudish corporate masters disagree with.

            Thankfully, iOS model isn’t the future of computing yet, and a number of alternate operating systems are thriving that don’t subscribe to the same prudishness of Apple.  Other places offer curated markets if that is your fancy, but Apple is the only one to outright forbid you from installing from an uncensored market.  

    1. A better question would be: would an app named Angry Swedes be approved or is this a policy against calling any nationality angry?

    2.  How about “Angry Americans”?  Does that offend you?  It is directly analogous to “Angry Syrians” in every relevant way.

      Similar: the Flight of the Conchords stuff about hating Australians.  The Kids in the Hall sketch about hating the Swiss.  Anyone offended by “angry Syrians” should, by rigorous application of logic, also be offended by these two comedy routines.

  8. Apparently only creatures of an ornithic nature are allowed to be angry on Apple products.

  9. Can we have an app that rates your chin as compared to the chin of Bashar al-Assad?

    That man is truly, as we say in Australia, a chinless wonder.

  10. I think Apple is right this time. It’s too big a can of worms to start approving one conflict over another. What if it’s a conflict later on we don’t approve of? Are we going to suddenly be upset if Apple approves it?

    I don’t think Apple should really approve any conflict-driven app for that reason.

    1.  Why should Apple have any say what you run on your iPhone? If you want this app you should be free to run it. Where does this moral authority to tell me what to run on my phone come from?

          1. Maybe if the other makers made *hardware* as nice as Apple, and software as well, I might be interested? But I like the hardware that Apple makes, and I also like their system software. I don’t have much of a problem with Apple. If you want to buy Android, or anything else that suits your fancy, go ahead. I’m not stopping you.

            I say this as somebody who owned two Android phones btw. One by Motorola and one by HTC. They were nice, but not as nice as Apple.

          2. Android is also not open, but it’s better than Apple in that respect.  I’m not a Google fanboy either I assure you.

            It’s cute that you’re a good little consumer and you like pretty hardware and that’s why you buy electronics, but I’m not advocating open systems for aesthetic reasons.  I’m advocating them for political, economic, and technical reasons. Computers are important in ways that yoga mats and lattes are not so the status symbol aspect is irrelevant to me; I support open systems for moral reasons, not hedonic ones.

            OK, there are aesthetic reasons as well.  I find Apple’s walled garden design philosophy absolutely revolting in an aesthetic sense…way too sterile and artificial.  But that really pales compared to the other reasons I dislike Apple.

    1. Sorry, there wouldn’t be any manufactured outrage over a rejection if he’d published it for Android. You have to aim for maximum media coverage which this guy achieved.

  11. NEOCONNED on Syria.

    Do you REALLY think that life is worse in Syria, than in the West’s “Good Ally” Saudi Arabia?  Women in Syria can drive and hold professions.  People can freely profess any religion. They can drink alcohol.  There’s teaching Nabokov, Einstein and Wittgenstein in their universities – and concerts of Tchaikovsky and Pink Floyd in their music halls.

    That’d be a list to have you imprisoned and tortured in Saudi.  But why isn’t Hillary threatening the Crown Princes, or arming their insurgencies?  There is some other issue here – and the danger to Syrian freedom comes from another quarter than Assad.

    Make no mistake – Assad is not John F Kennedy.  His abuses, however, are not to the extreme of Saudi oppression – nor even that of the post-Nasser Egyptian govenments the US and UK supported so very well, for so very long.

    Don’t be played.

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