On the heels of Tim Cushing's story about Apple threatening removal of a comics app due to what it deemed to be adult content, leading me to wonder whether Apple realizes that their devices are indeed used by adults throughout the world, it's worth highlighting something Cushing mentioned somewhat briefly. Beyond the obvious problem of Apple's clearly arbitrary morality, and even beyond the struggle of that comics distributor having to parse out what to do with their product, is the chilling effect walled gardens like Apple's app store have on everyone else.
Consider what occurred the past several days with Comixology and their comics app with respect to a specific book, Saga #12. Initially there was a fervor of anger at Apple, including by the creators of the comic themselves, over what appeared to be a banning of that book due to depictions of homosexual sex. As it turns out, it wasn't Apple who had censored the comic, but someone at Comixology instead. Comixology issued a letter of apology to their customers and to the creators of the Saga series, while also noting that Saga #12 will indeed be available in the app after all.
As a partner of Apple, we have an obligation to respect its policies for apps and the books offered in apps. Based on our understanding of those policies, we believed that Saga #12 could not be made available in our app, and so we did not release it today. We did not interpret the content in question as involving any particular sexual orientation, and frankly that would have been a completely irrelevant consideration under any circumstance. Given this, it should be clear that Apple did not reject Saga #12.
After hearing from Apple this morning, we can say that our interpretation of its policies was mistaken. You'll be glad to know that Saga #12 will be available on our App Store app soon. We apologize to Saga creator Brian K. Vaughn and Image Comics for any confusion this may have caused.
It is tantalizing to take the easy way out, blame Comixology for the screw up, and all go on with our days. It wasn't Apple's fault, they say. However, you can only reach that conclusion if you fail to understand the plain meaning of words in Comixology's apology. The only way to interpret this is to say that, yes, they self-censored the content in their own app because
they feared the consequences of not doing so and running afoul of Apple's sincerely illogical attempt at being the morality police. This is the inevitable result of creating the walled garden, an Eden if you will. Either you conform to the rules of whatever overlord suits you in this analogy, and you are therefore limited in your freedom and expression, or else you act free and risk being expelled from the so-called paradise. Those that wish to remain in the ironically named Apple's walled garden must not attempt at biting from any forbidden fruit and must take overly-protective steps to ensure they don't appear to. As one commentor at Kotaku put it:
A sign that Big Brother has won is when you start censoring yourself, instead of simply speaking your mind and stand the critics afterwards.
Indeed. Fortunately, unlike any Adam or Eve, Brian Vaughn and Image Comics have other, less trodden upon gardens in which they can play should they choose. And for creators of anything not aimed at school children, it's beginning to become more and more necessary that they choose exactly that, or risk obtaining the wrath of a so-called partner that sees itself as a god.