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GOP candidate slams Apple for rejecting attack app

Republican challenger trying to unseat incumbent Rep. Henry Waxman says critical phrases like "Soviet-style regulation" should be allowed.

A Republican candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives is accusing Apple of unreasonably rejecting an iPhone attack app that accused his Democratic rival of voting to raise taxes and cut spending on Medicare.

Ari David, who's vying for the June 8 Republican nomination in the district that includes West Hollywood, says Apple claimed that his free iPhone app was "defamatory." The app targeted incumbent Henry Waxman's voting record using pointed phrases like "Soviet-style regulation."

Ari David
Ari David Ari David for Congress

Under the App Store policy, "it's fine as long as you show pictures of yourself with puppies and kittens, but don't talk about the guy you want to replace in Congress," David, who has worked as a writer, actor, and stand-up comedian, told CNET on Friday.

An Apple spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Under Apple's developer license agreement (PDF), applications may not contain any "offensive or defamatory content or materials of any kind" or any "other content or materials that in Apple's reasonable judgment may be found objectionable by iPhone or iPod Touch users."

Translation: Apple may believe that Democrats would be offended by a political app that says Waxman "supported cap & trade legislation that would have brought us $7 a gallon gas."

This is hardly the first time, of course, that Apple has been the target of complaints alleging arbitrary App Store exclusion.

Cartoonist Mark Fiore had to win a Pulitzer before his app was approved; it had been denied on the grounds that it "ridicules public figures," which Fiore intended to be the point of the exercise.

And Apple rejected, and then permitted, apps offering political caricatures and a defense of a government-run health care system.

David, one of five Republican primary candidates (PDF) vying to challenge Waxman, an influential committee chairman, thinks the Apple employees who rejected his app were acting on their own personal biases. "That's fine, but that doesn't mean that I shouldn't go out and tell the world that that's what happening with my candidacy."

Courts have not recognized a free-speech right allowing political candidates to force newspapers, magazines, or Apple to publish their messages. The First Amendment says "Congress shall make no law" abridging speech rights, and applies only to government entities. (California law has extended free-speech rights to people collecting signatures at a mall, however.)

When asked whether Apple's property rights should prevail over any free-speech rights, David replied: "So even though, yes, they are a private company and in technical terms it is their right to control the App Store, because it's a de facto standard perhaps there is a constitutional right that would extend to me."