Apple Censors the English DictionaryWednesday, August 5th, 2009 by Harry Lewis
Hard on the heels of Amazon reaching into the homes of Kindle owners and snatching copies of Orwell’s 1984 off their devices, we have a stunning reminder that Apple’s iPhone is also a tethered device, and nothing goes on it that Mother Apple doesn’t want on it. Application developers have to go through a certification process to get their apps approved for the iPhone, and among the standards applied by the certification team are prohibitions on obscene and pornographic material. On that basis, Apple refused to certify the Ninjawords dictionary until the developer removed words such as “shit” and “fuck” that appear in every standard dictionary of the English language. John Gruber, the author of the linked-to post, points out that some of the banned words appear in the King James bible, and some, such as “ass,” “cock,” and “screw,” have inoffensive meanings which are equally unavailable to the iPhone users of the dictionary. Even after the developers scrubbed every word that had a sexual meaning, Apple insisted that the dictionary carry an “age 17 and over” classification.
No unexpurgated dictionary on the iPhone? No dictionary at all for 16 year olds, lest they find a word with sexual connotations? I’ve been thinking about getting one, but this is too much, no matter how neat they are. We don’t want our consumer electronics suppliers to be the arbiters of public morality, because in 21st century America the least common denominator will be down somewhere near the level of Saudi Arabia.