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WikiLeaks app banned by Apple, branded 'illegal' and 'harmful'

Apple has removed an unofficial WikiLeaks app from the App Store, the latest in a series of major companies to block services or funding to the whistleblower site.

Apple has removed an unofficial WikiLeaks app from the App Store. The app cost $1.99 (£1.29), half of which went to the whistleblower site.

"We removed the WikiLeaks app from the App Store because it violated our developer guidelines," an Apple spokeswoman told Wired's Threat Level blog. "Apps must comply with all local laws and may not put an individual or targeted group in harm's way."

Apple did not reveal the specifics of how the app was guilty of either of those charges.

The app's description, which is still available on the unofficial apptrackr website, read: "The truth is now available in your iPhone and iPad: the WikiLeaks app gives instant access to the world's most documented leakage of top secret memos and other confidential government documents."

The app showed the site's Twitter feed and allowed users to search and read the site's content -- both of which you can do easily with the iPhone's browser and Twitter clients.

Apple appears to be following the same opaque reasoning as Amazon used when it removed WikiLeaks from its servers earlier this month, and the major payment organisations blocked donations to the site. Under political and media pressure in the US, these companies have decided WikiLeaks is breaking the law and removed services.

They are entirely free to withhold services from whomever they choose, but no criminal charges related to WikiLeaks have been brought by any country against anyone involved with the organisation, and there have been no documented cases of anyone coming to any harm as a result of the leaks.

Apple initially removed the app with no explanation, as it tends to do, leading to some speculation as to the reasoning behind the banishment.

The Guardian speculated that in-app donation was to blame, and highlighted Apple's current policy, which is that payments can only be made via the Safari browser or a text message. This appears to be because Apple does not want to be held accountable for the validity of any charity its users donate to, but charities complain this has harmed fundraising efforts.

It doesn't appear that in-app donation was possible, however, with developer Igor Barinov only promising to give half of the App Store proceeds to the site. Barinov claims on Twitter that Apple told him his app violated section 14.1 of the terms of use, which prohibits 'personal attacks'.

The Register theorised that the app was removed for being 'worthless' as it merely scraped the WikiLeaks site and displayed its Twitter account -- and there was no guarantee the money would even reach the site. As Charles Arthur points out in the Guardian, that policy would leave the App Store rather empty.