Apple Store Polices "Offensive Content"

The big shiny hand of the gadget giant moves unpredictably

This week, Apple pulled another holier-than-thou maneuver by rejecting a Jesus-themed iPhone application submitted for sale at its App Store. Called "Me So Holy," the excommunicated app would have let iPhoners paste in a mug shot of themselves, friends, or whomever on a robed body of Jesus or other religious characters. Apple cited app developer agreement language that says "applications must not contain any obscene, pornographic, offensive, or defamatory content" as the reason for not accepting the program. "This was not meant as a joke on Jesus or Christianity or other religions," affirms Benjamin Kahle, the designer of Me So Holy and the Animalizer app. "It was meant to be fun."

These new signs that Apple may be tightening its grip on iPhone content come on the heels of last month's furor over the "Baby Shaker" app, which Apple pulled from its shelves after getting a barrage of complaints. Per its title, Baby Shaker users were encouraged to shake their iPhones in order to silence -- i.e. kill -- an animated crying baby.

Apple undoubtedly wants to avoid that kind of licensing mistake again. But the company's apparent arbitrariness in allowing some crude and unusual apps through (after all, iFart Mobile is listed as one of the top twenty all-time top paid apps) has ticked off many designers. "Their policies and approval are shrouded in mystery," developer Hardy Macia of Catamount Software told PC World in February. "Whenever an app is submitted, it seems like playing Russian roulette."

Though "Me So Holy" doesn't sound terribly blasphemous -- its title's reference to a once-banned 2 Live Crew aside -- religion still looms as a sacred cow at the App Store, according to Kahle. "Sex, urine and defecation don't seem to be off-limits, yet a totally non-violent, religion-based app is," he writes in a blog post.

Want to take your chances with Apple's censors? Check out PopSci.com's trilogy on how to build an iPhone app and see if you can make the successor to iFart's success. (Nota bene: a farting baby Jesus app may not be your ticket in.)