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In a Week of Internet Takedowns, Apple Yanks Anti-Same-Sex App from the iTunes Store

BY Nancy Scola | Thursday, December 2 2010

Image credit: Good as You

Over on, victory has been declared over a petition that called on Steve Jobs to app opposed to same-sex relationships from the iTunes store, after some 7,700 people emailed the company.

The app was a creation of a group called the Manhattan Declaration, and featured a survey that asked questions like, "Do you support same sex relationships?," to which the correct answer was no. "Apple has always been among the most progressive companies and earned a 100% rating from the Human Rights Campaign's Corporate Equality Index," read the sample email that went along with the petition, "and yet, the company has approved application that is offensive to Americans who support equality and free choice." Read the group's full statement of values here.

The Manhattan Declaration folks told the Huffington Post that they never heard boo from Apple Inc. about their app getting yanked; instead, they app was quietly dropped from the iTunes store over Thanksgiving weekend.

Apple's disappearing of an app that seems to run counter to the company's values comes during what has certainly been a fascinating week when it comes to who controls who sees what on the Internet, what with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Cyber Monday take-down of the domain names of websites linked to torrents and counterfeiting, and Amazon's decision yesterday to refuse space on the company's web hosting servers at the behest, it seems, of Joe Lieberman. This isn't an overly well-developed area of the Internet's intellectual history, and the trio of incidents raises all sorts of important questions about how comfortable we are with companies and governments and Steve Jobs gatekeeping what we like to tell ourselves is a free and open Internet.

One bit of the Manhattan Declaration story in particular that jumps out is how the petitioners appealed to Apple's sense of corporate values ("Apple has always been among the most progressive companies...") to make the case that fairly mild anti-gay rhetoric was beyond the pale when it comes to what belongs in Apple store. And that's because, at the same time, they're implicitly recognizing the fact that Apple/Jobs here are functioning like Internet infrastructure, rather than just one vendor among many. Asking a company to stop doing business with someone you don't like takes on a different cast when the reality is that they're the only vendor doing what it is that they do. Whether people are okay with that -- with getting a major provider of an Internet service to silence something they don't like -- is a big, open, crucial question. So too is the notion that we're comfortable with companies like Apple having the power to act as gatekeepers over online content. Neither question seems to have been asked much in this case.

The Manhattan Declaration folks have launched a counter-petition, calling on Steve Jobs to restore their app to the iTunes store.