Apple has come under fire for its decision to pull an app that tracks US drone strikes from its App Store, after the controversial app was briefly accepted after 12 rejections.


The decision has sparked outrage and inspired accusations of censorship.

Why would @Apple seek to censor an app which is, fundamentally, just a source of news?

Specific news, sure, but just news.

— Craig Russell (@trionkidnapper) March 28, 2017

Data artist and developer Josh Begley created the app five years ago, which sent push notifications each time a US drone strike was reported by the media.

Apple rejected the app, then called Drones+, saying it was “excessively objectionable or crude content.” Begley continued to submit the app to the online store over the years, in an effort to see whether Apple’s rules had changed.

Begley changed the app’s name to remove references to drones, calling it Metadata+, playing on the fact that information about drone strikes is scant, and largely only contains metadata. It also refers to comments made by former CIA and NSA Head Michael Hayden, who said, “we kill people based on metadata.”

In 2014, it was accepted to the App Store and was downloaded more than 50,000 times in the space of a year before Apple removed the app, citing the same reasons as before.

Apple’s censorship here is perplexing, given what else they approve. Has anyone FOIA’d for government pressure? @MuckRock? @joshbegley?

— Taylor Dobbs (@taylordobbs) March 29, 2017

@joshbegley So just acknowledging the mere existence of drone strikes is objectionable. This is such bullshit @apple

— Decomposure (@decomposure) March 28, 2017

The app doesn’t contain graphic content, but “simply aggregated news about covert war,” Begley explained in the Intercept. Other apps available on the App Store appear to glorify drone strikes and warfare, calling into question Apple’s decision.

After 12 attempts, Apple briefly accepted the Metadata app on Tuesday, before removing it again a short time later.

Begley received an email from Apple explaining that “upon re-evaluation,” it found the app did not comply with App Store guidelines, as the app “contains content that many users would find objectionable.”

The good news is the app is available on Android.

@joshbegley@dronestream I downloaded it literally an hour or two ago just in time lol. #censorship

— サイバーパンク (@AkumaSnow) March 28, 2017

@ggreenwald@joshbegley As if the strikes themselves weren’t objectionable.

— Robin Savage (@Lanakila000) March 28, 2017

@joshbegley Time for an app tracking how many times Apple has removed your app.

— Scott T Kelley (@ScottTKelley) March 28, 2017