It seems like just another silly digital timewaster: “Obama Trampoline,” an app that lets users manipulate animated images of the president and other top pols from both parties as they bounce around in the Oval Office or in front of the White House.
But for unexplained reasons, Apple’s App Store reportedly has rejected the harmless video game – baffling the techie crowd and quite possibly sparking a debate on how much control the company should exert over content that's even remotely political.
TechCrunch pointed to another recently nixed iPhone application, which featured a caricature of Barack Obama, and noted that Apple has a regulation prohibiting “objectionable” material:
“Applications must not contain any obscene, pornographic, offensive or defamatory content or materials of any kind (text, graphics, images, photographs, etc.), or other content or materials that in Apple’s reasonable judgement may be found objectionable by iPhone or iPod touch users.”
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An app that lets users make, with a shake of a wrist, an image of Obama and many other politicians jump on a trampoline, do backflips and pop balloons with their heads, may qualify as inane -- but it’s hardly objectionable. (Click here to see a video demonstration of the game, developed by Swamiware).
And as trifling as the trampoline-game ban may seem, there’s a potentially dangerous precedent being set here: as the iPhone, iPod touch and the like become more ubiquitous, the devices eventually could become much of the population’s main source for news and entertainment.
Will Steve Jobs and Co. take on a Big Brother role in deciding what kind of content users will be able to tap? Let’s hope not. Apple’s job shouldn’t be to deem what qualifies as offensive – the company's role is to sell us cool gadgets with unfettered access to information so we can make those kinds of decision for ourselves.
The rejection of the “Obama Trampoline” game could bounce back to haunt Apple: If you don’t give folks a choice, they may choose to look elsewhere for their next phone.
Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multi-media NYCity News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is the former City Editor of the New York Daily News, where he started as a reporter in 1992.