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There was a bit of a controversy over Ninjawords - an iPhone dictionary app. The source behind the definitions of the app is in Wiktionary .
The developers behind Ninjawords have recently released their iPhone app, but not without controversy - it omits all "objectionable" words, even though it has a 17+ rating. What's up with that?
Is Apple censoring an English dictionary? The "objectionable" words that you can simply look up online in Mobile Safari?
John Gruber of Daring Fireball got in contact with Phil Crosby, one of the developers behind Ninjawords by email:
The App Store approval process for Ninjawords took two months. Matchstick submitted the first build on May 13; it was rejected two days later. Says Crosby, “Our app was crashing on the latest beta of iPhone OS 3.0. We quickly fixed this issue and resubmitted.”
Matchstick did not hear back from Apple until May 30. Then, says Crosby: “We were rejected for objectionable content. They provided screenshots of the words ‘shit’ and ‘fuck’ showing up in our dictionary’s search results. What’s interesting is that we spent a good deal of time making it so that you must type vulgar words in their entirety, and only then will we show you suggestions in the search results. For instance, if you type ‘fuc’, you will not see ‘fuck’ as a suggestion. This is in contrast to all other dictionaries we’re aware of on the App Store (including Dictionary.com’s application), which will show you ‘fuck’ in the search results for ‘fuc’, ‘motherfucker’ for ‘mother’, etc.
In other words, the App Store reviewer(s) explicitly searched for curse words they already knew, and found them. (Reminiscent of the reviewer who rejected the e-book reader Eucalyptus after searching for, and finding, the Gutenberg edition of The Kama Sutra.)
The rejection email from Apple to Matchstick states:
Thank you for submitting Ninjawords to the App Store. We’ve reviewed Ninjawords and determined that we cannot post this version of your iPhone application to the App Store at this time because it contains objectionable content which is in violation of Section 3.3.12 from the iPhone SDK Agreement which states:
“Applications must not contain any obscene, pornographic, offensive or defamatory content or materials of any kind (text, graphics, images, photographs, etc.), or other content or materials that in Apple’s reasonable judgement may be found objectionable by iPhone or iPod touch users.”
Parental Controls have been announced for iPhone OS 3.0. It would be appropriate to resubmit your application for review once this feature is available.
iPhone Developer Program
From Daring Fireball: "On July 1, the app was rejected for the third time. Crosby says, “Someone from Apple called Dave [Crosby’s Matchstick Software colleague] to tell him that we were being rejected again for illicit content (he provided the single example ‘cunt’, which we had indeed missed in our filters), and no matter what we did to our dictionary, it will have to be 17+ to make it to the App Store.”
Sound ridiculous? Because it is.
But as of August 6th, it seems that this entire situation was just a misunderstanding. Gruber received an email from Phil Schiller himself regarding the Ninjawords mishap.
So what happened was that Matchstick wanted to ship their app out ASAP, which was before OS 3.0 came out with parental controls. So they had tried filtering out any 'objectionable' words since there was no parental control features prior to the 3.0 software. After 3.0 came out though, Apple wanted the app to carry the 17+ rating, even though the 'objectionable' content was taken out.
Apple did not censor the app, rather, it was just one huge misunderstanding that sparked a lot of controversy amongst the masses.