App Neutrality: Apple’s App Store and Freedom of Expression Online

Luis E. Hestres


Apple’s wireless devices have become a critical entry point into the Internet. But unlike the broader Internet, which can be construed as a relatively open communications network, the iOS app store is arguably a closed technological ecosystem. Developers must gain Apple’s approval before distributing their apps through the store. Some have criticized the company’s app review and approval process for being opaque and arbitrary. This process has also resulted in the rejection of both explicitly and implicitly political apps. This article analyzes Apple’s guidelines and approval process, discusses content-based rejections of apps, and outlines the consequences of this process for developers’ and consumers’ freedom of expression. It also argues for principles that guarantee “app neutrality” while also guaranteeing device safety and quality control.

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