Apple has for the third time this month rejected an iPhone app which alerts the user to a drone attack and to the number of people killed. Drones+ enables those concerned about the CIA’s illegal, unregulated use of these remote-controlled weapons to track the strikes to their handset.
This is no doubt an uncomfortable prospect for the US authorities, whose use of drones extends to Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, where no war has been declared. Such drone strikes have killed more than 3,300 people in Pakistan alone since 2004, according to reports by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism. Reprieve is working to expose and challenge the programme, through investigation on the ground and representing victims in legal action across various jurisdictions.
Strangely, Apple’s three rejections of Drones+ have each been for different reasons. On the first occasion, the company said its content was “not useful” (betraying something of an ignorance of the number of people interested in this issue, and the value in raising awareness of it); next, Apple said it was due to the inclusion of a corporate logo within the app.
Now, the company has told Josh Begley, the app’s developer, that the content is “objectionable and crude”. This is despite the fact that the app doesn’t display images or provide graphic details of any deaths, but simply aggregates news of drone strikes from various publicly available sources.
So Drones+ is more objectionable than, say, an app providing daily updates as to new weapons (including drones) developed? Or one teaching users to accurately shoot a range of 27 rifles, mimicking the effect of real guns? Both of which are available in the App Store.
Apple doesn’t publish any explanation of the Guidelines it applies in deciding which apps to allow. Its motivation for preventing those concerned from accessing information about these arbitrary executions is difficult to understand. Begley has said he will try to redevelop the app for Android. Hopefully its operators will take a sensible stance, rather than (even inadvertently) assisting in covering up these covert killings.