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Apple reconsiders banning Mac app Amphetamine over its drug-inspired name

The row highlights inconsistent app approval policies.
Jon Fingas, @jonfingas
January 2, 2021
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Apple 13-inch MacBook Pro with M1 chip (2020)
Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

Apple is once again facing scrutiny over the consistency of its app policies. As MacRumors reports, the company has reversed a decision that would have removed William Gustafson’s keep-awake utility Amphetamine from the Mac App Store on January 12th. Apple had claimed the name violates policies forbidding the encouragement of some drug use despite the app being available since 2014 and even promoted in the store.

Gustafson had stressed that amphetamines were legal in the US (with a prescription) and that there was no attempt to glorify the medication — the name was the only real reference. The developer took advantage of Apple’s appeals process to win the reversal, with Apple recognizing that Gustafson was referencing amphetamine “metaphorically” and in a “medical sense.”

The dispute was over in a matter of days after the December 29th warning, but it still highlights the issues with App Store guidelines. While a focus on human reviewers reduces the chances of malware and other dodgy content sneaking through the review process, it also increases the chances of inconsistencies where a reviewer might interpret rules differently.

This isn’t as much of an issue on the Mac as on the iPhone, as developers can easily offer apps outside of the App Store. Still, a removal could have dealt a serious blow. The Mac App Store offers significant exposure, and it would be that much harder to attract new users by pitching them through other channels.

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