In the midst of the technology frenzy that has seen more than one billion iPhone apps downloaded, appeared the baby shaker app. It let you shake a drawing of a baby until red crosses appeared over its eyes. The app was available for two days until Apple had to hurriedly take it down after a hurricane of complaint.
Apple had previously been uber-vigilant about which apps they allowed - even the seemingly harmless iFart, which does nothing more than make fart noises, was initially not allowed. So how this one slipped through the net really is a mystery.
It's hard to know who's accountable here. Quite possibly, just
one foolish employee who late at night let their guard down.
Then again, Apple absolutely should have better systems and checks in place to prevent this kind of thing happening. It shouldn't take parenting groups and child charities to point out how crass it is to encourage baby killing and injuring. There should already be enough sensible people with moral compasses working for such a high profile company to figure that out.
First off, always, always be vigilant. One rogue employee
shouldn't be enough to smear your business's reputation on an
international scale. Make sure you have systems in place to check,
double check and then triple check important work, particularly
that which is going to be seen by the public.
Secondly, if you're going to launch a controversial project, do market research first to assess your audience's sensitivity, and seek legal advice.
And make sure you're consistent in the message you send out about your brand. Thinking fart noises are unacceptable but baby killing permissible is bizarre, and incredibly confusing for consumers. If you're going to introduce a wide variety of one type of product, make sure there are some guidelines in place underpinning the whole range, to ensure at least some degree of consistency with your brand values.
It's also worth being aware if you open your business up to outsiders - in this case, all the developers who aren't working for Apple but are allowed to create apps on the Apple platform - you are always opening a potential can of worms.
Apple took the app down within two days of it going live, and
the day after issued an apology, saying, "This application was
deeply offensive and should not have been approved for distribution
on the App Store."
For that, we give Apple credit, even though releasing the app was a gross breach of judgement and taste.
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