No, Apple isn't going all Big Brother on us

Company denies filtering MobileMe emails based on political content

Jobs headshot.jpgPhoto credit: IDG News Service

Apple on Thursday was forced to deny allegations that its MobileMe webmail app has been filtering emails based on political content.

It all started early this month when MobileMe users began complaining in the "Reader Reports" discussion forum at Apple news site Mac In Touch.

A guy named Ken Rosenblum posted that he repeatedly tried to send a political email via MobileMe. The message read:

The authoritarian Governments in Syria, Greece, Saudi Arabia and Yemen continue to oppress and massacre their own citizens. Their manipulative and combative attempts at controlling the media and their citizens are unethical and illegal. They continue to oppress its own citizens through beatings, harassment, jailing and killings.

Stop the oppression of innocent Arab People!!!

Take a stand against Authoritarian Oppressive Regimes!

Equal Rights to all people!

That message, Rosenblum said, never made it to its intended recipients, while other, non-political emails did go through.

(Also see: 'Nanny telcos' should focus on business, not censorship)

After The Register and then Cult of Mac jumped on the story, it got picked up by other media, including Talking Points Memo. The "controversy" had migrated from the tech media to the political media. Next stop: Alex Jones!

So on Thursday Apple trotted out spokesperson Trudy Muller, who said:

"We want to make clear that Apple is not blocking MobileMe email due to political content. Occasionally, MobileMe’s automated spam filters may block legitimate user emails by mistake. If a customer feels that a legitimate email of theirs was blocked this way, we encourage them to get in touch and report the issue to MobileMe support."

And, you know, that sounds about right. For a corporation to do something like what's being suggested, there has to be a motivation. What's the motivation for Apple chief executive Steve Jobs, a self-described liberal Democrat, to censor emails containing political views with which he agrees? There isn't one.

But that doesn't stop the dark theorists. Some comments from Cult of Mac, The Register and MacInTouch:

"Isn't it obvious since long ago that Apple is an enemy of free speech?"

"If you really think this can happen in error then your kidding yourself."

"You know the super secret option that the Govt. (read shady corporate overlords) states they all have to have that instantly filters and censors content in times of major civil unrest/martial law/state of emergency etc. You know I'm right."

"I have a sense of why Apple might want to do this, but it's deeply misguided at the very least and needs to stopped right away."

That last one is intriguing, you have to admit! But the vast majority of people commenting on this story attribute the "censorship" to spam-filter glitches or other technical reasons. I'm with them.

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