Frontline News Thursday walked away from launching its mobile app on the App Store after Apple demanded the news outlet scrub all references to COVID-19 from its content.
Apple created a policy in March 2020 that it would only publish apps related to COVID-19 from “recognized entities such as government organizations, health-focused NGOs, companies deeply credentialed in health issues, and medical or educational institutions.”
As of this report nearly three years later, the policy not only remains in place, but has evolved to forbid apps to mention the words “COVID-19” or “pandemic” unless Apple picks them as a “trusted source.” Apple’s trusted sources include CNN, BBC, MSNBC, and even VICE News, all of whom have famously peddled COVID-19 misinformation such as the virus originating in a wet market.
Frontline News is not among those trusted sources.
“We found your app’s metadata includes references to the COVID-19 pandemic in the keywords,” the tech giant told Frontline News. “However, only apps from recognized institutions providing essential services related to the COVID-19 pandemic should reference the pandemic in their metadata. This ensures that App Store users can easily find apps that provide credible information and response services.
“Promoting access to relevant, credible apps has always been a priority for us, and it is especially important at this time.
“Next Steps: To bring your app into compliance with these guidelines, remove all references to the COVID-19 pandemic from your app’s metadata.”
The ultimatum left Frontline News with three options: One, accede to Apple’s demands and omit any article mentioning the forbidden words “COVID-19” or “pandemic” from the app. Two, accede to Apple’s demands and replace every mention of “COVID-19” or “pandemic” with a different word. Three, refuse to participate in the tech giant’s censorship shakedown and sacrifice a larger audience reach.
Frontline News chose option three.
Frontline News Director Mordechai Sones explained the decision: “Apple is not a parent, and we are not Apple's children. Whom they consider a trusted source is irrelevant. We will not enter into an abusive relationship with Apple.”
Apple could not be reached for comment.