Google Supports Free Speech, Apple not so Much

New York, NEW YORK, January 2016 — The mobile game developers at Thirteenth Floor Studios, creators of World Knockout: North Korea thought they had a winner: a game that took a satirical jab at one of the world’s worst dictators, Kim Jong Un. The cartoonish graphics and humorous cut scenes illuminated real hardships faced by the North Korean people, then pitted the player against Un’s henchmen before letting them use the Great Leader as a punching bag. Google Play took their game immediately, and now mobile users of the Android operating system are punching away at tyranny. However, Apple’s App Store took a dimmer view of the game.

To deny the game makers a place in their store, Apple representatives cited regulations that disallow references to any “specific race, culture, a real government or corporation, or any other real entity” when that person or entity is depicted as an enemy. The App Store Review stated that any enemies in a game must be fictitious, or generic.

This policy does not apply to media across all of Apple’s platforms, however. In fact, when one searches the iTunes database, the film, The Interview, is available for download. As in World Knockout, The Interview depicts North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un, as an enemy. In the live-action film, the leader is depicted as duplicitous, violent and is ultimately killed by the film’s American heroes.

Apple also sells satirical magazines such as MAD, a periodical that pokes fun at any number of real people, including North Korea’s Un, depicting them as “enemies.” In one MAD feature, Un is said to machine gun his alleged confidantes and consume his nation’s last bag of flour. Despite such negative depictions of a real person, MAD remains for sale.

Since both the film, magazine and the game depict a satirical image of North Korea’s leader, the game developers feel that they have been the recipients of unfair treatment. They see this is a case where Apple is denying their free speech. The Google Play store, on the other hand, seems to support the gamers right to satire and expression. After a brief review period, the game was made available for Android users.

Given that the U.S. courts have historically supported the right to depict real people under the guise of humor, Apple’s decision seems overly cautious.

In response, Thirteenth Floor Studios executive, Timothy Snyder, quoted the Organization of American States, saying, “Freedom of expression in all its forms and manifestations is a fundamental and inalienable right of all individuals. Additionally, it is an indispensable requirement for the very existence of a democratic society.”

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