Apple has removed QDrops, a $0.99 paid app designed to promote a conspiracy theory about Hillary Clinton and a supposed child sex ring, from the App Store.
Despite its pro-free speech position, Apple was clear to distance itself from apps which break its user guidelines.
The App Store has always supported all points of view being represented, as long as the apps are respectful to users with differing opinions and the quality of the experience is great,” Apple spokesperson Stephanie Saffer told NBC News.
“We have published clear guidelines that developers must follow in order for their apps to be distributed by the App Store, designed to foster innovation and provide a safe environment to all of our users. We will take swift action to remove any apps that violate our guidelines or the law — we take this responsibility very seriously.”
The QDrops app was launched in April, centered around the so-called far right Qanon conspiracy theory. It was launched by a husband and wife team in North Carolina, and briefly rose to the No. 1 spot in the App Store’s Entertainment section. Since then, it has remained in the top 200 paid apps. QDrops was also available in the Google Play Store.
Apple’s responsibility for fake news
Ever since Apple launched the App Store back in 2008, there have been questions about its curated approach to apps.
Anti-censorship pundits have argued against Apple inserting its own views on what is and isn’t acceptable, such as Steve Jobs’ ban on pornographic apps. On the other side, people have argued that by taking a monetary cut of sales, Apple has a greater level of responsibility for apps found on its platform.
In this case, the controversy about QDrops comes at a time when Silicon Valley as a whole is very concerned about the topic of fake news.
Recently, Apple was among the companies which met with members of the U.S. intelligence community to discuss the way that tech platforms were allegedly used for spreading fake news during the 2016 Presidential elections.