Digital Rights Groups Launch Educational Campaign Targeting Apple’s App Store Monopoly Chokepoint

Posted April 13, 2022, 2:59 PM

Groups are calling for the passage of the Open App Markets Act to solve major human rights issues across the world, and address corporate greed.

This week, U.S. based digital rights organization, Fight for the Future, and China-based Great Fire, an anti-censorship human rights group that runs AppleCensorship.com, launched FreeTheiPhone.com as an educational resource for the public and to make the case for Congress pass the Open App Markets Act (OAMA), a bill that aims to fix major human rights and antitrust issues with the Apple App Store and similar digital marketplaces. 

The campaign page details how Apple’s App Store moderation is rife with abuse from authoritarian governments around the world that push Apple to remove political content, VPN services, encrypted messaging apps, LGBTQ+ apps, and more from the App Store. Apple recently complied with a request from the Russian government to remove a voting app that helped organize candidates and voters who opposed President Putin. The group’s page also highlights the corrosive monopolistic practice of Apple requiring all software be distributed through their App Store, which allows Apple to participate in rent-seeking behavior. This practice forces many developers who wish to distribute apps on Apple’s iOS platform to surrender up to 30% of their revenue to Apple, stifling the growth of small businesses who rely on the App Store platform.

Benjamin Ismail, Project Director at AppleCensorship.com, said “Apple is not fooling anyone. Over the past decade, it has thoroughly engaged in censorship and collaboration with repressive regimes such as Russia or China to protect its financial interests”.

While the groups acknowledge that Apple has the right to continue to moderate and maintain its platform as it sees fit, they urge lawmakers to force Apple to allow users the ability to install apps from sources outside of the App Store ecosystem, such as alternative app stores and from places like github.

Joe Thornton, a Campaign Manager at Fight for the Future noted,“If you own your phone, you should be able to install whatever software you want, from whatever source you want, period. As companies like Meta become hardware manufacturers (Oculus), and look to turn Facebook into a metaverse company, we run the risk of these mega monopolies defining our entire online experience. This could make Apple’s stranglehold over our mobile devices look quaint. We must act now to ensure that these virtual spaces, and the devices and software that power the experience, are open and interoperable, and users are not locked down to one giant corporation, app store, or platform.”

The groups are urging lawmakers to pass OAMA to solve these major human rights and antitrust issues.

For press inquiries: Evan Greer, 978-852-6457, press@fightforthefuture.org