Apple boots WikiLeaks app from iPhone store

Cites clause that bars apps which put people in harm's way, says maker

Apple yesterday pulled an iPhone app from the App Store that let users read secret U.S. diplomatic cables published by WikiLeaks and follow the controversial organization's Twitter feed.

According to Igor Barinov, the general manager of Moscow-based Hint Solutions, Apple yanked his WikiLeaks App from the App Store shortly after noon on Monday. Barinov posted several screenshots of his program's App Store status as proof.

Tuesday, Barinov said that Apple had called to tell him it would provide an official reason for removing his app in a day or two. In a Twitter message, Barinov said Apple had referred him to several clauses in the App Store developer guidelines, including one that read: "Any app that is defamatory, offensive, mean-spirited, or likely to place the targeted individual or group in harms [sic] way will be rejected."

"They named points of apple dev guideline which bans app forever," Barinov said on Twitter.

Apple's move was the latest in a string made by U.S. companies, including Amazon, Bank of America, MasterCard and PayPal, that have terminated services for WikiLeaks.

In late November, the organization began publishing U.S. State Department messages. Since then, WikiLeaks shifted its site to new hosting providers several times; its founder, Julian Assange, was arrested in the U.K. and then posted bail; and pro-WikiLeaks activists launched distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks against the firms that withdrew services.

In a Monday press release, Barinov said that $US1 from the sale of each copy of the $1.99 app would be earmarked to "help fund the legal defense costs in the event that high- profile Internet journalists will be charged in a United States Court" for writing about the WikiLeaks cache of U.S. documents.

WikiLeaks does not charge to access its content.

Tuesday morning, Barinov said that his app had been downloaded 4,434 times, and he would contribute $4434 to WikiLeaks from his profit of $5825.

Apple takes a 30 per cent cut of all revenue on the App Store; if Borinov's numbers are accurate, Apple would have made approximately $2500 on the sale of the app.

Neither Barinov or Apple replied Tuesday to requests for comment or to additional questions.

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Gregg Keizer

Computerworld (US)
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