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Should the Feds break up the Apple Store Ap monopoly?

I'd prefer to have different options for downloading apps. If I shell out the money for the phone shouldn't that be my call?

Hey, I'm a capitalist unless folks are in the monopoly game a trying to restrict competition. Then I'm a Teddy Roosevelt wannabe.

The Tech Censors Return

Twitter blocked the Hunter Biden story. Now Apple coerces with its App Store.

Andy Kessler, WSJ

Dec. 11, 2022 1:14 pm ET

Do we need hall monitors? Last week Elon Musk released the “Twitter Files,” revealing that the company blocked anything it wanted related to the Hunter Biden laptop story—wrongly it turned out. I wrote a column in October 2020 on social-media bias that Twitter restricted for many users simply because I mentioned the ban and Ukrainian payoffs. In addition, Mr. Musk previously accused Apple of threatening to remove Twitter from its App Store after his company uncanceled Donald Trump and others. Apple CEO Tim Cook then walked Mr. Musk around the company’s spaceship headquarters in Cupertino, Calif., and assured him that “Apple never considered doing so.” Sunshine can be a pre-emptive disinfectant.

Apple could censor any time it wants. Its App Store, the only one on the iPhone, with fees that would make Tony Soprano blush, demands that apps “not include content that is offensive, insensitive, upsetting, intended to disgust, in exceptionally poor taste, or just plain creepy.” OK, that sounds creepy.

And Apple does censor. The social-media app Parler was suspended from the App Store for more than three months in 2021. A video app named Odysee also has issues. According to Tucker Carlson and Fox News, “Apple presented Odysee with a list of nearly two dozen search terms, most related to Covid, that it had to ban if it wanted to join the App Store.” I decided to see for myself. I downloaded Odysee and typed in “covid origin china.” Sure enough, a screen popped up warning me: “This search term is restricted for iOS users of Odysee.” I find it offensive that Apple can decide what is offensive.

Other companies are doing the same. The “China Uncensored” podcast notes that if you type “protests in Chi,” Google offers to autocomplete with Chile or Chicago, but not China. And in July 2021, Clarke Humphrey, a member of the Biden administration Covid-19 response team, wanted Facebook to remove an Anthony Fauci parody Instagram account. He emailed the company: “Any way we can get this pulled down? It is not actually one of ours.” The reply came in under 60 seconds: “Yep, on it!”

That’s right, the public square of social media is no longer in public, it sits partly inside a government building. Apple, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter are like nerdy grade-school hall monitors. That’s also creepy.

Doesn’t this all sound familiar? I typed “June 4, 1989” into Google and got “Tiananmen Square protests and massacre.” When I typed the same thing into China’s leading search engine, Baidu, I got, “What’s wrong with our liberal studies courses?” followed by “China rejects U.S. statement on June 4 incident.” Incident! China shouldn’t be the role model here.

There is a simple solution to all this. It’s called sideloading—allowing alternate and competing app stores so users aren’t restricted on their phones. We pay $1,000 for an iPhone, why can’t we do what we want with it? I’ll gladly give up a little security and privacy if the world opens wide. Social-media companies could make uncensored versions of their apps, with a line drawn for both child porn and inciting immediate violence and stricter controls for those under 16. Mr. Musk could call his Safe Twitter and Free Twitter.

Sideloading would solve many problems. No one could be canceled, only ignored. Apple might be forced to do this. Two bills were introduced in Congress earlier this year that may require alternate app stores. Meta’s Mark Zuckerberg piled on, saying recently, “It’s problematic for one company to control what kind of app experiences get onto a device.”

Mr. Cook is worried, saying in a keynote address he is “concerned about regulations that would undermine privacy and security in service of some other aim.” Never mind that aim might be free speech.

Of course, Mr. Musk’s promotion of free speech on Twitter scares progressives who want to limit speech they don’t like. So Mr. Musk has gone from admired green savior to right-wing extremist villain virtually overnight. Congratulations to him.

The rest of the world needs more freedom online too. It’s hard to find virtual private network apps in China, because the government doesn’t want its subjects to bypass the censors. In China, Apple recently limited the capabilities of AirDrop, which allows phone-to-phone communications without using cellular networks. Now protesters will have difficulty communicating when authorities restrict cell service. Will Apple do the same in Iran? Russia? Seattle? Yes, it turns out.

As they say, haters gonna hate. Censors gonna censor. But I want to own my experience. Most people are smart enough to skip things that upset or disgust them. No hall monitors needed, including in the nascent metaverse.

Rather than legislation forcing Apple to add additional app stores, or Federal Trade Commission lawsuits for years, maybe the White House can ask Apple nicely to allow competing app stores. Then Mr. Cook could say, “Yep, on it!”

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