Apple Now Censoring A Dictionary iPhone App?

from the really? dept

Apple’s continued arbitrariness in banning iPhone apps continues in weird and somewhat incomprehensible ways. The latest getting attention (and sent in by a lot of people) is that a dictionary app called Ninjawords was forced to block out the definitions of certain words in order to get approval to be in the App Store. Even though the app itself has a 17+ rating, apparently Apple came back with a list of “objectionable” words in the dictionary which had to be removed. Never mind the fact that anyone could just go to a website with the very same device and look up those same words… Oh, and of course other dictionaries available at the App Store seem to have those same words. The article also points out that Wal-Mart — notorious for refusing to sell “objectionable” material sells dictionaries with these sorts of words included. The whole thing is bizarre, and again makes you wonder what Apple is accomplishing with its app review process, other than pissing people off. Update: Apple has responded and explained its side of the story. They’re claiming it wasn’t censorship, so much as an issue of timing. The app did have what Apple felt were offensive words/definitions, and asked the developer to wait until parental controls had been turned on for the iPhone. The developer then chose to block those words to try to get the app launched prior to parental controls being in place. Fair enough… but it still seems odd that Apple should be able to object to any definitions. It’s a dictionary, based on Wiktionary.org… which anyone can visit with their browser. Still, this is one of the first times we’ve actually seen Apple respond to one of these stories. So that’s progress…

Filed Under: , , , , ,
Companies: ninjawords

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Apple Now Censoring A Dictionary iPhone App?”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
52 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

What the ! This is ing stupid! Not sure if they are really pissing off that many people with these for brain moves but at least making people regret they ever picked up their ing stupid devices! Of course I’m sure many die hard apple fan boys will clamor saying “Apple is just protecting us! Please Steve Jobs all over my face!”

This comment was sent by my iPhone

(Tongue in cheek people don’t flame!)

Skeptical Cynic (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I have an iPhone and I am also in IT so jailbreaking would be nothing. But I have never jailbroke my phone because it was never an issue. I could get most any app I wanted to do what I want. But I also hate DRM with a purple passion. But Apple is getting just plain stupid.

I will never buy another iPhone it’s just to restrictive.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: It's why...

ok I’m sorry but as a computer nerd I have to rail at this, nothing personal, you are just one in a long line of fools who eat up the media tripe. because you know what? Macs are PCs too. you know what PC means? Personal Computer. Any computer nowadays is a personal computer (except for servers and mainframes but most people don’t see those, and even then many servers are just personal computers re-purposed.). Most Macs run on the same Architecture as Windows and the various Unix/Linux operating systems. So the Mac fanboys are ‘PC’s as well.

it is stupid to blindly fall for Apple and Microsoft’s lame ad campaigns, especially when both of their operating systems suck (for that matter so do the Linux ones) they just suck in different ways.

PC Guy says:

Re: Re: It's why...

Apparently, you aren’t as big a computer nerd as you think. Those of us “in the know” realize that yes, PC stands for personal computer, but we know the originals… which is that it is short for IBM PC, the first real successful PC.

Nowadays, PC means “Windows” and Mac means “Mac OS”. A computer nerd such as yourself should know these things, or perhaps you’re a newbie computer nerd and us old timers are still using the computer jargon from yester-year.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: It's why...

Apparently, you aren’t as big a computer nerd as you think. Those of us “in the know” realize that yes, PC stands for personal computer, but we know the originals… which is that it is short for IBM PC, the first real successful PC.

fair enough, but I figured most people wouldn’t recognize IBM or it would date me a little too much and thought that the generic definition of PC would do to serve my purposes

Nowadays, PC means “Windows” and Mac means “Mac OS”. A computer nerd such as yourself should know these things, or perhaps you’re a newbie computer nerd and us old timers are still using the computer jargon from yester-year.

No, I know that is what the media companies are co-opting those terms into, I just object to the sheep-like attitude that people show by blindly following the ‘new’ definitions. I will still call my devices Primary Master, Primary Slave, Secondary Master, Secondary Slave, thank-you-very-much. and really where the fsck does the new definition leave a linux user? should they run around saying they are a penguin? You know, that might be really funny now that I think about it…

but I use all of the major OSes, I refuse to classify myselfs as a “windows man” or a “mac boy” or a “linux jerk” (which frankly, is pretty deserved for many of the linux “lusers” due in no small part to their ass-hattery elitism that is very prevalent among the hard-core, just like the other OS elitists for that matter). and I hate that I can’t just say I use PCs when asked without people assuming I’m a stupid “windoze” user (hardy-har-har, I said windoze, like people who use them are stupid a-hyuck.)

I equally object to the redefinition of hard-core games, now if you can blow someone’s head of a game is magically hard-core, I want to know what happened to the time when being a hard core gamer meant being shut up in your mom’s basement playing for hundreds of hours a day (because you were so hard-core you played all the systems at once, all the time!) till you had every facet of the game down to both a science and an art and any game that have enough depth for that was considered hard-core whether it was an RPG or an RTS or a TBS, or any other genre, the depth available turned it into a hard-core game.

ChurchHatesTucker (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: It's why...

“Those of us “in the know” realize that yes, PC stands for personal computer, but we know the originals… which is that it is short for IBM PC, the first real successful PC.”

Shush, child. The term PC was used for years before IBM co-opted it.

There was no shortage of successful PCs before that, it was just the inherent “nobody got fired for going IBM” mentality that launched IBM’s late-to-the-game offering into anything anyone would pay attention to.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: It's why...

Not to debase your wonderful rant or anything, but…words change. Nicknames, labels, etc. aren’t required to retain their old meanings indefinitely.

PC has become synonymous with non-Apple computers. Don’t like it? Too bad.

By the way, since you’re such a purist when it comes to linguistics, I’d suggest looking up the original definitions for half the words you just used. Such as “rail”, “fool”, “nerd”, “tripe”, and “suck”.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: It's why...

Not to debase your wonderful rant or anything, but…words change. Nicknames, labels, etc. aren’t required to retain their old meanings indefinitely.

PC has become synonymous with non-Apple computers. Don’t like it? Too bad.

By the way, since you’re such a purist when it comes to linguistics, I’d suggest looking up the original definitions for half the words you just used. Such as “rail”, “fool”, “nerd”, “tripe”, and “suck”.

My complaint is different than your examples because you can still use the original meaning when in the proper context.

for example I can go to a restaurant and order tripe, and I will get what I wanted, the stomach and/or entrails of an animal.

if I say I was acting the fool, every knows that I was not messing with something but playing a part as if I was a court jester.

No one uses the first definition of nerd, from the illustrious Theodor Geisel, few even know that is the first recorded use of the word, though the origins of the word are disputed anyway.

I can still use the word suck to indicated something being drawn in by something else, it does not have to mean something is bad.

additionally I can say I am feeling quite chipper and gay today and people will know I do not mean I am feeling homosexual

Likewise I can ask for a fag and receive either bundle of sticks or a cigarette, depending on where I am and how I phrase it.

now those definitions may not be commonplace anymore, but they are usable. with PC it is different, if I tell someone I want to buy a PC then they will direct me to the windows boxes or tell me how stupid I am for not buying a macintosh. it is not the redefinition that I object to nearly so much as the loss of the old, classical definitions.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 It's why...

Okay, here’s 1:1 comparable circumstances for you:

– Silly: original meaning is “blessed”
– Rosary: Latin for “rose garden”

In fact, since there are still contexts where you could use “PC” and have it understood as “computer”, those examples are even worse.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 It's why...

Okay, here’s 1:1 comparable circumstances for you:

– Silly: original meaning is “blessed”
– Rosary: Latin for “rose garden”

In fact, since there are still contexts where you could use “PC” and have it understood as “computer”, those examples are even worse

not completely correct, Silly, from seely had many meanings, from lucky, harmless, pitiable, and insignificant as well as the now common silly. some of those meaning are still used, though admit-ably rarely.

and Rosary is actually “garland of roses” you are thinking of rosarium which is indeed a rose garden (and still used by some today I might add). it is a transformation of the original word and did not co-opt the meaning. Additionally even though the meaning of Rosary is garland of roses, there is no indication that it was used with anything other than the prayer beads. and those that still use Rosaries know the definition because it has religious connotations.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 It's why...

Silly‘s original meaning was “blessed”. The other meanings were adopted at a later date, notably with a steady descent into insult.

I’ll grant you the rosary definition, though. It was derived from the word for Rose Garden, but the meaning was more figurative.

Point is still there, though, that meanings get lost over time.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:5 It's why...

ok, fair enough on the silly, that is a pretty good etymology site, adding it to my web resources.

and while meanings do get lost, rarely are they lost as quickly as the computer terms are. It took nearly a hundred years for silly to lose the meaning it first had while within 20 years most people don’t get the original definition of PC, even less in that the major mudsling campaigns that Microsoft and Apple have been doing haven’t been around all that long.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: It's why...

It sort of makes me laugh when I realize that many of the wordy supporters of all things free are also grand supporters of Apple.

I will say that Apple has the CwF thing down perfectly, they manage to get the sheep who like their products to massively overpay for stuff, because Mr Jobs has christened a product, and then they get between artists and their potential customers and steal away a big chunk of the music selling money too.

Considering the profit on every i-thing, they should be paying artists, not the other way around.

william says:

good job Apple!

Finally! Someone is thinking about the children!

I don’t want my kids to read the definition of sh*t, a*s, c*ck, vag*na and heavens forbid, f*ck. Actually, I don’t even want me kids to use a dictionary! Thank you for putting the dictionary as a 17+ app AFTER all those words are removed. I mean, who know when flowers, bees, Apple and oranges will become a slang form something dirty! Now that’s what I call pre-emptive strike!

Thank you Steve Jobs! Now that you are back, you can continue to play god and rules us all from your throne at 1 infinity loop!

NullOp says:

Censorship

This one act should tell you loads about the “Apple Mindset.” This the computer company that brought you the closed architecture. Only Apple is allowed to produce “Apples.” So now most everything is way overpriced and development is generally an afterthought. The app developer did as much as needed to be done on the dictionary. Even the developer’s approach could be questioned as aren’t we all adults here? Apparently not according to Apple. So Apple sees fit to be “Big Brother”, to that I say shit!

ChurchHatesTucker (profile) says:

Re: Not so fast

“Apple did NOT censor the app.”

Yes, they did.

Look, I’m almost as big an Apple fanboi as they come (just this side of Roughly Drafted) I’ve been using Macs almost as long as they’ve been around, but the app was censored.

Now the process of how/why that happened is being sussed out, but the fact is that they somehow got themselves into the position where they *censored a dictionary*, for fuck’s sake.

Larger point is that the process needs to be revised (and has been for a fucking long time. Fuck.)

Shit like this is why I’m letting my iPhone contract go month-to-month for the time being. Let’s see if Apple can get its shit together (and if AT&T can provide a network that’s worth a shit.) Otherwise, it’s Android. Or possibly Pre, if they can do anything noteworthy.

ChurchHatesTucker (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Not so fast

“Go to Daring Fireball and READ Phil’s letter, then come back here to actually, intelligently discuss the situation.”

OK, fine.

“The issue that the App Store reviewers did find with the Ninjawords application is that it provided access to other more vulgar terms than those found in traditional and common dictionaries, words that many reasonable people might find upsetting or objectionable.”

I’m not even going to get into that whole debate. They were censored for *words.* Doubleplus Ungood words, to be sure..

rwahrens (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Not so fast

Geez, you don’t get it, or just don’t want to.

They were asked by Apple to wait for 3.0 so it could be brought in under parental controls, because the particular terms Apple objected to were unusually objectionable, and WERE NOT CARRIED IN OTHER DICTIONARY APPS.

The developer made HIS OWN CHOICE to censor the app instead of waiting. Apple never told him to, nor said it was required to get it approved. It isn’t that Apple censored it, the developer made his own choice that Apple never asked him to make.

Other apps have been brought in under similar restrictions because they linked to similarly objectionable material.

Get a grip.

ChurchHatesTucker (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Not so fast

I’m not even sure how to respond you you.

Yes, it was a dictionary. Yes, it included some of the ‘dirty’ words that are in all dictionaries. Well, I guess it’s “most dictionaries” now.

Here’s the thing, you provide access to the internet. I can use my iPhone to get on 4chan. That’s why I love it (well, not so much the 4chan thing as the general stuff. You get the idea.) I can do this 24/7 (except when AT&T decides that traffic is just an annoyance. But that’s another thing.)

Point being, his “what he wanted to do” moment was his first try. On account of that’s what he… Oh, you’re smart enough for that.

He didn’t get that. He made changes.

Blah blah blah, Suddenly a dictionary is NC17.

Seriously? Fuck that.

And I spent a good five minutes as a kid looking up bad words in a dictionary. If only we have these laws, I would have been locked up instead. And that would have been good somehow or other…

rwahrens (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Not so fast

Here’s the relevant passage:

“The issue that the App Store reviewers did find with the Ninjawords application is that it provided access to other more vulgar terms than those found in traditional and common dictionaries, words that many reasonable people might find upsetting or objectionable. A quick search on Wiktionary.org easily turns up a number of offensive “urban slang”? terms that you won’t find in popular dictionaries such as one that you referenced, the New Oxford American Dictionary included in Mac OS X. Apple rejected the initial submission of Ninjawords for this reason, provided the Ninjawords developer with information about some of the vulgar terms, and suggested to the developer that they resubmit the application for approval once parental controls were implemented on the iPhone.”

Note:

“…terms that you won’t find in popular dictionaries…”

Now I agree in principle that censoring a dictionary is ridiculous, but the decision to do so was the developer’s, regardless of whether he felt some unsubstantiated and undetailed “pressure” from Apple to do so. Apple TOLD him exactly what he could do to win approval, and he took a different course. Any such “pressure” was in his own mind.

Apple doesn’t use the ratings to actually restrict usage of apps, but as a guide to parents who ARE concerned about what their kids are exposed to.

And that is a legitimate goal of that system.

william says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Not so fast

I agree with CHT that Apple DID censor the app, and I did read the article on daring fireball.

what make me think that censoring happened is the following quote.

==========
“Apple may slap a 17+ rating on our app and wash their hands, saying ‘you’re not required to censor your app’, but at the same time, they’re putting a great deal of pressure on us to do so. Who wants to be the only illicit dictionary on the App Store? That may work for Urban Dictionary, but not us. I think that applying parental ratings inconsistently is tightly related to censorship in our case, and will be true for other apps as well.”
==========

Think back in your life, how many times are you told that “Hey you don’t have to do that!” but you KNOW you have to do it. Whether it’s your girlfriend/wife saying “hey you don’t need get me this for my birthday” to your bosses says, “Hey you don’t have to work extra hours to catch up”…

Look, I can see that Apple is trying not to offend anyone with their jesusPhone (and cover their asses for potential lawsuits, oops, I said ass, teehee) But in the course of this crusade, they are offending a lot of people for their over-zealous actions, both developers AND consumers. I as a consumer are really pissed at Apple’s action right now. Not only they lost my business, they also potential lose all the business with friends/relatives who ask me if they should get an iPhone/iPod/Mac.

rwahrens (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Not so fast

No Apple did NOT censor that app. The developer did, even if he claims to have felt some unspecified “pressure” from Apple to do so. That is HIS decision, and his alone.

Again, from my above post, the relevant passage:

“The issue that the App Store reviewers did find with the Ninjawords application is that it provided access to other more vulgar terms than those found in traditional and common dictionaries, words that many reasonable people might find upsetting or objectionable. A quick search on Wiktionary.org easily turns up a number of offensive “urban slang” terms that you won’t find in popular dictionaries such as one that you referenced, the New Oxford American Dictionary included in Mac OS X. Apple rejected the initial submission of Ninjawords for this reason, provided the Ninjawords developer with information about some of the vulgar terms, and suggested to the developer that they resubmit the application for approval once parental controls were implemented on the iPhone.”

Note that it was already public knowledge that iPhone 3.0 was only weeks away, most likely to be released at the WWDC. It was the DEVELOPER’S decision to gain that few weeks of additional time.

Not to mention all this free publicity!

John (profile) says:

One more reason not to buy Apple

I’ve been holding off on buying an iPhone or iPod Touch exactly because of this type of BS from Apple.
The Creative Zii is looking pretty good, maybe I’ll get that instead.
Either way I will NEVER buy from Apple unless they open up their platform with a way for anyone to put any app they want on it.
I can sync/install any app on Windows Mobile and Linux based platforms, Apple is just plain ripping people off by limiting apps to the app store and then they have the nerve to tell you what you can and can’t install on a device you paid for.

rwahrens (profile) says:

Re: One more reason not to buy Apple

Please specify exactly how Apple is “ripping me off” when I buy apps I WANT.

People can go ahead and jailbreak their iPhone, but when their IMs get plastered all over someone else’s phone cause THEY jailbroke it, they shouldn’t blame Apple!

And when your non-Apple phone gets its first virus cause you opened a malicious email, and your phone’s OS just calmly lets it be installed, I’ll be laughing behind my keyboard.

anymouse (profile) says:

"Parental Controls" = Censoring..... for a limited audience

Not to get into the whole who did what side of things, but just the fact that Apple said that this app need “Parental Controls” (ie Censoring) means that they are saying it needs to be censored.

Now their claim may have been that it only needed to be censored for minors, but lets cut out the semantic games and admit that Apple told the developer that their App needed to be Censored (they may have said that it needed to wait for their ‘parental controls’ which is just another form of censoring, but it is censoring the app). The fact that the developer decided to censor the words on their own (since Apple indicated that they would before they would allow the app) doesn’t mean that Apple wasn’t the one responsible for the Censoring.

rwahrens (profile) says:

Re: "Parental Controls" = Censoring..... for a limited audience

crap.

The parental “controls” are for informational purposes, and for those PARENTS that want to be aware of what their kids are exposed to. Not a damn thing wrong with that kind of warning.

All the developer had to do was wait three weeks or so for the WWDC, when just about the entire blogosphere knew iPhone 3.0 would be released.

But this was just too good an opportunity for him to get all this FREE publicity!

You can’t buy this kind of publicity for all the tea in China…

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...
Loading...