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Old 03-25-2011, 10:00 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Democratic Senators Demand Smartphone Makers Ban Apps, Only RIM Complies

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Apple and Google both have declined to respond to request to remove app

It's a little app, but it's creating a huge dispute over censorship and the role of the U.S. government.

"Checkpoint Wingman" and other similar apps have graced Blackberry App World, the iTunes App Store, and Android Market. Their aim is controversial -- to allow users to share and warn others of police DUI checkpoint stations on the road. The apps integrate with the GPS in users' phones to provide real-time warnings of upcoming police. Aside from avoid the police while intoxicated, the apps are also commonly used to avoid speed traps.

Outraged at the app's growing popularity a quartet of Democratic national Senators -- Sens. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), and Tom Udall (D-N.M.) -- have banded together and sent letters urging Apple, Google, and Research in Motion to ban the app from their respective marketplaces.

RIM, thus far, has been the first and only app distributor to comply. It killed the app Wednesday afternoon.

Now the question is whether Apple and Google will follow in suit.

Many feel that Apple will likely follow in suit, as it has a history of removing apps that cause controversy, such as the "Baby Shaker" app. Writes Rob Pegorano of The Washington Post, "I suspect that Apple won’t be long in following RIM’s lead, considering how it’s moved quickly in the past to delete such offending content as the Baby Shaker app..."

Apple recently removed another controversial app dubbed "gay cure" that was produced by a fundamentalist Christian group in Orlando. The app, initially approved, gave users links to events, videos, and message boards designed to "[help] those struggling with unwanted same-sex attraction to live a life congruent with biblical teaching."

Gay rights groups complained to Apple about the app, saying it was discriminatory. They pointed out that according to the American Psychiatric Association, homosexuality is not a disease.

As of Thursday, the Apple app, "PhantomALERT" was very much alive on iTunes.

Even if Apple bans the DUI/speeding warning apps as well, Google may not. The company typically practices a much more hands off approach to its Android Market in terms of censorship.

Ultimately this dispute raises a lot of hard questions, though.

Should apps be censored by smartphone makers? If so, what kinds of apps? Hateful/discriminatory apps? Apps that promote breaking the law and eluding law enforcement? Adult apps?

And regardless of whether or not censorship by the companies who own their stores is kosher, is it also okay for the government to sometimes step in and tell app distributors what to censor?

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