Pulitzer Prize Winner Reveals His iPhone App Was Rejected For Ridiculing Public Figures [Updated]

BY Andy

Published 16 Apr 2010

Fiore app rejected by Apple

You may know Mark Fiore as the popular caricaturist whose animated political cartoons have regularly appeared on publications like San Francisco Chronicle.

Earlier this week, Fiore created history by becoming the first online-only journalist to win a Pulitzer prize.

However, the satirical nature of Fiore's politial cartoons don't seem to have not gone down well with Apple's App Review staff.

Update: Apple has asked Mark Fiore to submit his iPhone app again to the App Store for approval.

In a recent conversation with Laura McGann from the Nieman Journalism Lab, Fiore has revealed that his iPhone app was rejected by Apple late last year on grounds that the content on his application ridiculed public figures. The Nieman Lab reports:

"In December, Apple rejected his iPhone app, NewsToons, because, as Apple put it, his satire “ridicules public figures,” a violation of the iPhone Developer Program License Agreement, which bars any apps whose content in “Apple’s reasonable judgement may be found objectionable, for example, materials that may be considered obscene, pornographic, or defamatory."

Apple attached screenshots of the offending material, including an image depicting the White House gate crashers interrupting an Obama speech. Two other grabs include images referencing torture, Balloon Boy, and various political issues."

Fiore app rejected by Apple

Fiore has however indicated that he is still interested in distributing content via the mobile phone platform. He says: 

“I think the iPads and anything iPod to iPhone — to maybe a product not made by Apple — will be good or could be good for distributing this kind of thing (political cartoons)”

This is not the first time an application has been rejected over potentially objectionable cartoons. You may recall the controversy surrounding the rejection of an iPhone app called "Bobble Rep". Bobble Rep was an interesting application that provided the contact information of all US senators to users. The handy application was initially rejected by Apple over claims that the caricature that accompanied the contact information of senators was objectionable in nature. However, Apple retracted its stance later on. 

Fiore has noted that while he has not resubmitted the app for approval, he is still hopeful about launching an iPhone app soon. Laura McGann writes:

"Fiore has not resubmitted his app, saying he’d heard about the experiences of others cartoonists and wasn’t in a position to get into a fight with Apple. Still, he has a hunch Apple will eventually change its mind on him, as it has with other cartoon apps. “They seem so much more innovative and smarter than that,” he told me."

What do you think? Is Apple right in rejecting apps that are satirical in nature? Or do you think it's a mistake due to the manual nature of the approval process and will get approved if he resubmits his iPhone app? Let us know your views in the comments. 

Update 1:

The Wall Street Journal reports that Apple has asked Fiore to resubmit his iPhone app to the App Store:

"The cartoonist who won the Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning this week says Apple has asked him to resubmit an iPhone app that it earlier rejected because it “ridicules public figures.”

A representative from Apple called the cartoonist Thursday and suggested that he resubmit the app, Mr. Fiore said in an interview. “I feel kind of guilty,” he said. “I’m getting preferential treatment because I got the Pulitzer.”

So as we had guessed, the rejection of the iPhone app appears to be a mistake, which Apple has realized probably due to the publicity it received and not because he got the Pulitzer as it wouldn't have got rejected in the first place if that was the reason. 

Since the approval process is prone to such mistakes, it might be a good idea for Apple to implement a feature in its approval process where it can approve the iPhone app that was rejected by someone with higher authority rather than asking the developer to resubmit the iPhone app for a mistake it has made.

Update 2:

New York Times reports that Steve Jobs has responded to a customer who had sent him an email about the rejection of Pulitzer prize winner's iPhone app. He admitted that Apple made a mistake in rejecting Mark Fiore's iPhone app. In the email sent from his iPad, Steve Jobs said:

“This was a mistake that’s being fixed”

Update 3:

Mark Fiore's iPhone app – NewsToons is now available on the App Store for $0.99 (iTunes link). 

[via The Nieman Journalism Lab, Wall Street Journal]