November 28, 2022
Phil Schiller Addresses Dictionary Censorship

Phil Schiller Addresses Dictionary Censorship

Posted August 6, 2009 at 3:11pm by iClarified · 5420 views
Phil Schiller has written Daring Fireball's John Gruber in regards to the rejection and censorship of the Ninjawords application.

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When I read your column last night about the Ninjawords dictionary application I immediately investigated it with our App Store review team to learn the facts of what happened.

Let me start with the most important points - Apple did not censor the content in this developer's application and Apple did not reject this developer's application for including references to common swear words. You accused Apple of both in your story and the fact is that we did neither.

Ninjawords is an application which uses content from the Wiktionary.org online wiki-based dictionary to provide a nice fast dictionary application on the web and on the iPhone. Contrary to what you reported, the Ninjawords application was not rejected in the App Store review process for including common "swear" words. In fact anyone can easily see that Apple has previously approved other dictionary applications in the App Store that include all of the "swear" words that you gave as examples in your story.

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.

The Ninjawords developer then decided to filter some offensive terms in the Ninjawords application and resubmit it for approval for distribution in the App Store before parental controls were implemented. Apple did not ask the developer to censor any content in Ninjawords, the developer decided to do that themselves in order to get to market faster. Even though the developer chose to censor some terms, there still remained enough vulgar terms that it required a parental control rating of 17+.

You are correct that the Ninjawords application should not have needed to be censored while also receiving a 17+ rating, but that was a result of the developers' actions, not Apple's. I believe that the Apple app review team's original recommendation to the developer to submit the Ninjawords application, without censoring it, to the App Store once parental controls was implemented would have been the best course of action for all; Wiktionary.org is an open, ever-changing resource and filtering the content does not seem reasonable or necessary.
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While it is good to know that Apple didn't intend to refuse the application entry to the App Store based on possible profanity, Schiller's explanation does not address the real problem here.

There are numerous dictionaries in the App Store which contain the specific world's that Apple flagged as being objectionable and requiring a 17+ rating. These same words are present in applications rated 4+.

Gruber writes that, "other dictionary apps in the App Store have innocuous age ratings, and yet contain all of the words that App Store reviewers objected to in Ninjawords (shit, fuck, and cunt, specifically). For example, American Heritage Dictionary ($30) is rated 9+; Dictionary.com is available from the App Store for free and is rated 4+."

Apple must set fair guidelines which are consistently enforced no matter who the developer is.

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Phil Schiller Addresses Dictionary Censorship
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ernstlustig
ernstlustig - August 7, 2009 at 9:42am
Dear Apple, observe your own guidelines and block all Internet access from your phones!
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