The situation with the COVID-19 virus is no joking matter and yet there are always people who would take advantage of the situation to make a profit. Others may be more well-intentioned but unwittingly help spread misinformation, which is all too easy in this day of the Internet and mobile apps. To help curb those all too human tendencies, mobile and social platforms have imposed rules that effectively block non-authoritative apps and sources. But while they are seemingly effective, it is also calling into question at least one platform’s process of enforcing it.
Fake news and scams have always been a problem on the Internet and the spread of the coronavirus presented some less conscientious individuals with the opportunity to make a quick buck. Given the severity and sensitivity of the matter, companies like Apple, Facebook, and Google have taken a hard stance against such attempts.
In Apple’s case, it is reportedly blocking app submissions related to the virus that don’t come from official health organizations like WHO or government bodies. It seems to be effective as searching for COVID-19 or coronavirus in the App Store only surfaces apps from such bodies. Google may have also implemented a similar policy for its Play Store on Android as well as Web Search results.
It isn’t completely sitting well with well-meaning third-party developers who aim to provide verified information from the same sources, just packaged differently or combining information from multiple channels. Developers are reporting that Apple is rejecting their apps outright, citing rules in its App Review Guidelines. Their gripe, however, is that those rules were only added this week.
App developers are citing this as another example of Apple changing the rules from under their feet to fit its goals. Few would argue it isn’t needed in this singular context but are also asking Apple and its reviewers not to make blanket judgments on all apps and take into account the developer’s history. Given that Apple actually scrutinizes app submissions manually, that shouldn’t be hard to verify.