Apple’s control over access to the iPhone application marketplace is so total that even leftist organizations are saying the tech giant has too much power to censor.
It is difficult to install an application on any smartphone without the approval of either Google or Apple, who control 99 percent of the global smartphone operating system market. On both Apple iPhones and Google Android devices, most applications are downloaded through the companies’ official app marketplaces (the “App Store” on iPhones and the “Play Store” on Androids).
Both companies regularly ban apps from their stores for political reasons, most notably in the cases of Gab and Parler. They also enforce their terms of service unevenly — Twitter, Facebook, and other mainstream social media platforms have never been ejected from either app store, despite regularly hosting content that incites violence and criminal behavior.
However, the censorship is marginally less effective on Android devices, because it is technically possible for users to install apps on Android devices without Google’s blessing/ Users can do this by downloading app files, known as APKs, directly from app manufacturer’s websites instead of through the Play Store. This process is commonly referred to as sideloading.
The same is not true of Apple. If your app is banned from the App Store, it is impossible for users to install it on iPhones. This allows Apple to control access to an enormous chunk of the app marketplace in the U.S. and around the world.
Fight for the Future, a leftist nonprofit campaigning on the issue of digital rights, is urging members of the public to contact lawmakers ahead of a Senate Judiciary committee hearing later today on competition in app stores. The organization is calling on legislators to end Apple’s chokehold over the App Store.
Via Fight for the Future:
Apple has a long history of working with authoritarian governments to remove apps from the App Store. This is unsurprising. Apple is a for-profit business and to operate in a country, it must obey the local laws, no matter how unjust.
The problem is that once an app is removed from the App Store, there is no alternative way to install it. This creates a situation where apps can be created to uphold power, but never to challenge it. To effectively censor the web—and software distributed via the open web—countries must undertake massive infrastructure projects. But with Apple in charge, all a country has to do to censor an iPhone app is send Apple an email about it.
Developers have worked around App Store censorship by creating web apps. But if a government blocks access to the Internet, and Apple removes VPN apps from the local App Store, those web apps become inaccessible.
Apple’s distribution model is a gift to censors and dictatorships everywhere.
“If you buy a phone, it’s your phone. You should have the right to install whatever software you want on it,” said Evan Greer, Director of Fight for the Future.
The Senate Judiciary committee’s hearing on competition in app stores will begin at 2:30 PM eastern time and can be watched here.
Allum Bokhari is the senior technology correspondent at Breitbart News. He is the author of #DELETED: Big Tech’s Battle to Erase the Trump Movement and Steal The Election.