Gab is now alleging that the iPhone maker is rejecting its app based on political double standards that it doesn't apply to other social networks.
"Apple is asking Gab to censor 'objectionable content' while allowing this same content to exist in much higher volumes on every major social channel," Gab CEO Andrew Torba told Inc. "Our app is being held to a much higher level of scrutiny than other social-networking apps."
Gab, which is based in Austin, is a social network similar to Twitter. It allows users to share micro-blog posts with their followers that can contain photos, videos, or links to articles. But compared with Twitter, Gab is more permissive with the types of content it allows its users to publish, adhering to an extreme version of free speech. At the same time, the social network gives its users the ability to easily filter out any words, phrases, or types of content they do not want to come across on their feeds to avoid issues of user abuse and harassment.
This mixture of features and policies has turned Gab into a popular online hangout spot for white nationalists and white supremacists, many of whom have been banned from Twitter for posting speech that can be considered hateful or abusive. That popularity has helped Gab grow quickly--it boasts 140,000 users since launching last year--but it has resulted in its service being full of the kinds of content Apple says it won't promote.
In December, Apple originally rejected Gab for not censoring pornographic content on its service by default. Gab made the changes necessary and re-submitted its app, but since then, Apple has continued to reject the company for a variety of issues. Apple has rejected Gab on technicalities, but on Jan. 21, the company rejected Gab on a matter of content once again, the startup claims. This time the reason given was the "objectionable content" that is found on Gab.
"Your app includes content that could be considered defamatory or mean-spirited," Apple's App Store Review team said in an email posted on Medium by Gab. "We found references to religion, race, gender, sexual orientation, or other targeted groups that could be offensive to many users."
For Torba, this reason is a double standard that is not applied to other social networks whose apps are actively available on iOS.
"We believe that the extreme scrutiny we are being subjected to is related to the fact that our community is very pro-Trump," Torba told Inc. "We believe it was no mistake that it took 17 days to review our app and it was rejected on Jan. 21, Trump's first full day as president."
Explaining its reasoning, Apple included screenshots of searches made on Gab for various objectionable terms, such as the n-word, Gab said. But terms like the n-word can easily be found on many other social networks.
"This clear double standard against us is potentially politically motivated and clearly targeted," Gab said in its post. "When you actively search for something on a user generated website, chances are you're going to find what you are looking for."
To illustrate this point, Torba and his team posted screenshots of similar searches on Instagram, Reddit, Tumblr, and Twitter. Gab notes that on Instagram, in particular, the app will not only show you results for these types of terms but will also suggest other similar objectionable terms for users to search for.
"Please note that we certainly do not condone this type of language," Gab said in its post. "Our point in highlighting it is simply to display the double standards and extreme scrutiny Apple is putting our application through while allowing Big Social apps to display the same and arguably worse content in their own apps."
Gab said it plans to continue to appeal Apple on this decision. Additionally, the company said it plans to launch an Android app in "the next month or so." Until then, users wishing to access Gab must do so via a Web browser.
"We refuse to cater to corporate censorship and will defend free speech at all costs," Gab said.
Apple did not respond to a request for comment.