Posted By Jeff Nelson
This week, an app for parents questioning their kids’ sexual orientation hit the Android Market, causing outcry from consumers and activists alike. This isn’t the first app to raise uproar though, and it’s time to look at the ethics that go into releasing controversial content.
“Is My Son Gay?” — the most recent addition to a growing list of notorious apps — is a game of 20 Questions on which the targeted audience (mothers) answers “yes” or “no” to a list of stereotypical inquiries. Gay groups label the app as homophobic. Its French developers bit back, saying their intent was to create “playful” and even proactive technology.
But controversial apps have been around from the beginning. “Baby Shaker” — a game many found offensive for trivializing Shaken Baby Syndrome — was pulled from the iTunes App Store within a week of its release in 2009. And earlier this year, Apple removed the pray-the-gay-away-esque “Gay Cure” from its shop after 150,000-plus signatures called for its elimination.
Apple and Android have screening processes to block unsuitable material from reaching the public —but both continue to release distasteful content. When arguments and allegations arise, they issue generic apologies and leave it at that.
Should we apply journalism ethics to apps? Do you think these apps are inappropriate? Who, if anyone, should be held accountable for them — the developers or the stores? Even if they’re offensive to some, is making apps unavailable to customers unconstitutional? Share your thoughts below.