With the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) spreading around the world as rapidly as it is, misinformation is thriving while reputable news struggles to get out.
A number of firms have put measures in place to prevent the spread of misinformation and now it seems as if Apple and Google are applying protections to app stores.
App developers have told CNBC that Apple rejected their apps which would allow folks to see COVID-19 stats about countries. Despite the app drawing data from the World Health Organisation, the software was rejected.
“Apps with information about current medical information need to be submitted by a recognized institution,” read a message received by another developer.
It appears then as if Apple is hedging its bets and only allowing apps through which come from reputable sources (such as WHO) or governments. While it seems a bit much, it’s worth remembering how quickly misinformation can spread and Apple deciding to rather not risk users being misinformed by a malicious app, is rather admirable.
Google is taking a similar tack with its Play Store for Android.
While the firm hasn’t confirmed it’s taking action, a search for “coronavirus” on the store yields no results. No results were presented for “COVID-19” or “novel coronavirus” searches either.
As The Verge points out, Google does have a policy in place for what it deems sensitive events.
“We don’t allow apps that lack reasonable sensitivity towards or capitalize on a natural disaster, atrocity, conflict, death, or other tragic event,” reads a notice on the Google Play website.
Examples of these violations include:
- Lacking sensitivity regarding the death of a real person or group of people due to suicide, overdose, natural causes, etc.
- Denying a major tragic event.
- Appearing to profit from a tragic event with no discernible benefit to the victims.
This lack of apps related to COVID-19 then would make sense given the above policy.
Whether this will change remains to be seen.
While this does feel a bit like gate-keeping on the part of Apple and Google, we’d argue that its necessary.
For now, you can get your COVID-19 updates from reputable sources such as the WHO, local health organisations and government itself.