Apple Censors a News App Tracking US Drone Strikes


An iPhone app alerting users to US drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia has been removed by Apple. Metadata+ was created by Josh Begley; a data artist and editor at The Intercept.

Based on information from news reports, Begley first created his drone monitoring application in 2012. Originally called Drone+, the app was rejected by Apple multiple times. It was eventually accepted into the Apple store in February this year under the name Metadata+. Although the focus of Metadata+ remained the US drone war, Apple officially described it as offering “real-time updates on national security.” Last Sunday, Metadata+ was removed on the grounds that it involves “excessively crude or objectionable content”.


Earlier this year, Apple banned the virtual reality journalism app Ferguson Firsthand. Ferguson Firsthand created a virtual reality report of the US police shooting of Michael Brown. It was rejected for violating the Apple store’s “inappropriate subject matter” guideline.

Apple’s pursuit of corporate censorship is not limited to news stories that are uncomfortable for US authorities. The company has previously censored words like ‘jailbreak’ and ‘vagina’ and removed books for sale on the grounds of their cover images.

The removal of Begley’s app, however, seems a more pointed effort to censor news. According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, over 5,000 people have been killed by US drone strikes since 2004. Official casualty figures are not made public as the CIA, rather than the US military, run the drone program as a secret operation.

Begley continues to track drone strikes via his Twitter account @Dronestream, which has a record of ‘every reported covert US drone strike, 2002-2015’. Dronestream was created as part of Douglas Rushkoff‘s Narrative Lab, which supports non-linear and interactive storytelling.

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