Friday, January 1, 2021 [Tweets] [Favorites]

Amphetamine Threatened With App Store Removal

William C. Gustafson (tweet):

Amphetamine is a free app that helps keep your Mac awake. Amphetamine has been on the Mac App Store since 2014 and it’s been downloaded over 432,800 times. It currently has over 1,400 reviews and a 4.8 out of 5.0 rating in the US Mac App Store.

On December 29th, 2020, a representative from Apple contacted and informed me that, after 6 years on the Mac App Store, Amphetamine had spontaneously began violating one of Apple’s App Store Guidelines.

Apple then proceeded to threaten to remove Amphetamine from the Mac App Store on January 12th, 2021 if changes to the app were not made. It is my belief that Amphetamine is not in violation of any of Apple’s Guidelines. It is also my belief that there are a lot of people out there who feel the same way as me, and want to see Amphetamine.app continue to flourish without a complete re-branding.

Petition:

Apple has accused Amphetamine of violating the following guideline:

1.4.3 Apps that encourage consumption of tobacco and vape products, illegal drugs, or excessive amounts of alcohol are not permitted on the App Store. Apps that encourage minors to consume any of these substances will be rejected. Facilitating the sale of marijuana, tobacco, or controlled substances (except for licensed pharmacies) isn’t allowed.

Apple further specified:

“Your app appears to promote inappropriate use of controlled substances. Specifically, your app name and icon include references to controlled substances, pills.”

The app doesn’t promote the use of any pills by humans. Rather, it’s a metaphor for offering your Mac a common treatment for Narcolepsy.

Jeff Johnson:

Apple featured the app that they now want to remove for supposedly promoting drug use.

Update (2021-01-01): William C. Gustafson:

While Amphetamine (the app) does not promote the use of illegal drugs, there are other apps that do. You can find plenty of other apps on the App Store that either promote irresponsible use of both legal and illegal drugs, or outright glorify the manufacture and sale of illegal drugs. These other apps have not been removed from the App Store or forced to rebrand.

See also: David Heinemeier Hansson, Hacker News.

Previously:

Update (2021-01-05): Andrey Okonetchnikov (via David Heinemeier Hansson):

That’s pretty much what happened to @colorsnapper! We wanted to submit a tiny update and it got rejected after years being on the Mac App Store.

David Heinemeier Hansson:

Apple: This app that simply keeps your computer from going to sleep is promoting drug use. Also Apple: GTA 5 gets our Editors Choice for actively basing gameplay around drug use and drug trafficking 👏👏

William C. Gustafson (Engadget, Hacker News, The Verge, MacRumors, tweet):

Just got off a call with @Apple. Appeal accepted and Amphetamine will remain on the @AppStore.

Nick Heer:

In a parallel universe where this story did not receive press coverage, would the outcome be the same?

Marcus S. Zarra:

Reading things like this are so disheartening.

Hard to even consider writing for any Apple platforms anymore. Why take the risk?

blackbrokkoli:

I mean, good for the app, but at this point this really makes my blood boil. […] Every time somebody writes a “my app got finally restored :)” post hundreds or thousands of equally good and legit pieces of software get thrown into the abyss - and why? Because the author speaks no English, has no network, does not tweet enough. What a shitty reason.

26 Comments

I am sorry but words are important. Drugs: nope!

The first and second arguments on the GitHub page are pretty persuasive, though I think they’re unlikely to persuade anyone making decisions at Apple.

How about Amph? Surely there must be an amphibian somewhere who doesn’t sleep.

I don't believe Apple or any platform vendor should be able to distribute software or interfere in the distribution of software. A private for-profit company having the power to control what people the world over can and cannot see is incompatible with human rights and freedoms. Apple and Google should not be able to run app stores or provide financial services.

That said naming your app after a controlled substance, putting a picture of a pill on the app icon, asking Apple to distribute your app, and then getting outraged when Apple says no would have to be one of the dumbest things I have seen in a long time. And that's on the back of 2020 when human stupidity has really been front and center.

The only thing I am shocked by is this got past Apple's app review in the first place.

Matthew,

The app got past Apple's app review over 25 times. (The App Store Version History does not go all the way back to 1.0, but it's likely over 30 times.) More importantly, the app was also featured by Apple in the Mac App Store.

Let me ask a question: of the 432,800 people who downloaded the app, how many of those do you estimate started using drugs because of downloading and using the app? A rough estimate is fine. Would you say it falls into the range of, for example, greater than zero?

>how many of those do you estimate started using drugs
>because of downloading and using the app?

None, but that's a bit like complaining about Apple not allowing porn by asking how many people got an STI from watching porn. Nobody is claiming that anyone started doing drugs because of the app name. Apple clearly just doesn't want to be associated with drugs, which IMO is a perfectly valid reason for rejecting an app.

Once again, the problem here is not Apple's rejection of this app, which makes sense from Apple's POV, but the fact that they have a monopoly on app distribution.

> that's a bit like complaining about Apple not allowing porn

No, because the app does not actually contain or distribute drugs. It's just a name and an icon, nothing more.

> Apple clearly just doesn't want to be associated with drugs

Clearly they do, as evidenced by the Mac App Store feature of the app.

> the problem here is not Apple's rejection of this app, which makes sense from Apple's POV, but the fact that they have a monopoly on app distribution.

No, Amphetamine is a Mac app, which could be distributed outside the App Store.

The problem here is that the app already has already earned over 400,000 users and name recognition, which was fine with Apple for over 6 years, but then suddenly Apple wants to throw that all out of the window for an absolutely moronic reason.

It’s also one more display of how capricious the process is: first, they feature the app (in fact, when I searched for it, I ended up on a App Store Stores page praising it); then, they want it taken down.

>> that's a bit like complaining about Apple not allowing porn
>No, because the app does not actually contain or distribute drugs

Porn also doesn't make you have sex. It's exactly the same. Apple doesn't want the association.

>> Apple clearly just doesn't want to be associated with drugs
>Clearly they do

They're allowed to notice when they have made a mistake.

PS:
>Amphetamine is a Mac app

Then I don't see the issue at all. Apple is giving them a choice that is more than fair.

1. If you want to use our distribution system, change the name of the app, so it doesn't reference drugs
2. If you don't want to do that, then you have the ability to distribute the app on your own

What's the issue here?

Apple apologists: "The name is just obviously bad. It's a wonder that Apple overlooked it all these years. This case is a slam dunk for removal."

Apple: "Appeal accepted and Amphetamine will remain on the @AppStore." https://twitter.com/x74353/status/1345421211677949957

Apple apologists: "See, the system works!"

Folks, several of you are speaking of "Apple" as if it were a singular entity ("Apple wants", "~ feature the app", etc). You're also using "Apple apologists" as a singular entity.

Both these names refer to huge and diverse groups of people. Sure, "Apple" tries to act like a unified company, but clearly they can't have every person at every level of the org chart sign off on every decision. "Apple apologists" is even less well defined, and almost certainly applies to an equally large group of people that doesn't even try to act in a uniform way.

It doesn't help to pretend that these are two individuals arguing mano a mano. That's right up there with the old Slashdot days when person using operating system A knew one dumb person using operating system B and made fun of all B users for it, and vice versa.

Anyone who thinks that products/services from Apple (or any other large tech company) are entirely consistent and void of flaws has never used any. That is an emergent property of all large organizations, not of the App Store.

Jeff Johnson: “Apple apologists”

Cute. As a professional product name “Amphetamine” is problematic at best. A schedule II drug well known for abusive use? Perhaps as an encore he can submit an image editor named GIMP?

Naming matters. And nothing screeches Amateur like playing stupid twelve-year-old edgelord games and then whining ’cos you win stupid twelve-year-old edgelord prizes.

By all means hound Apple for its capricious, inconsistent, opaque submission processes. But at least pick a better, and undeniably one-sided, example to do so, otherwise you just come out looking like a jackass too.

has, Apple apologists refers to people who defend Apple no matter what it does, even pivoting their own opinions in Orwellian fashion when Apple changes course, as it did in this case.

Amphetamine is not a professional product name. It's a totally free app made by the developer in his free time. Nonetheless, all of this moralizing about the name appears to be completely manufacturered outrage that did not exist until Apple took some action that "needed" public defense. Nobody thinks the name is racist, Mac App Store users never even requested that the app be renamed, so this case is not analogous to sports team nicknames. To quote a tweet from the developer: https://twitter.com/x74353/status/ I directly asked Apple if their position was based on customer complaints, and they said "No, I don't think so."

Apple approved the app's submissions on 41 separate occasions. Apple featured the app in the Mac App Store. And now Apple once again approved the app for continued listing in the Mac App Store. So if you still have a problem with the name, you're entitled to that view, but your argument is with Apple, not with me.

I do support the elimination of offensive sports team names and mascots. However, those were real controversies for many years, unlike this case, and Native Americans had been calling for those names to be changed. Moreover, there was never an out-of-the-blue 2-week deadline to change the name or else the teams are abolished.

@Sam:

When a reviewer rejects an application, I agree it's not necessarily "Apple" but just someone working for Apple.

When the appeal review board keeps on rejecting an application, it's definitely "Apple". As a consequence, it's not just the appeal review board that looks illogical in this case but Apple itself.

Seems crazy to me that there are actually people who think Apple was acting reasonable here. Everything is offensive in 2020 apparently.

Since all devs are treated equally, would Apple demand that Rockstar Games change the name of Grand Theft Auto on the App Store because the app name encourages crime? In the case of Amphetamine the app name is just a metaphor, while GTA actually let's you simulate crime. FWIW I'm not arguing that GTA should be renamed and I'm fine with mature content on the App Store so long as it's properly labeled as such.

I think Jeff Johnson is right, there are plenty of people who will defend Apple no matter what. At least Apple backed off on this, so I'll give them credit for admitting they were wrong.

>Everything is offensive in 2020 apparently

Things were offensive even in the past, it's just that the people who were offended didn't say anything for fear of retribution.

>I'm fine with mature content on the App Store so long as
>it's properly labeled as such.

So you're saying this app should be labeled as mature content?

Looks like I lost another comment. Remind me not to edit something in a browser textbox. Sheesh.

TL;DR: If you've watched See on Apple TV, you know Apple is walking an uneven higher ground; that show was incredibly offensive to me as a practicing Christian, and if you've watched, you probably know the scene I'm talking about (I stopped immediately; there could be more -- added nothing crucial to the show, imo, but definitely lost one viewer).

If you've noticed GTA: Vice City was on the Mac App Store, you'll know the same (Apple is walking uneven moral ground).

I don't like the name, and wish they wouldn't use it, but I also wish Apple talked to us like people, not like every one of these is a new study is idealism and ivory towers without context.

Okay, we'll grandfather this one, but dev community at large, this is your warning. Don't plan to use names like this going forward.

The trial-by-social-media thing isn't fair, doesn't scale, and is a poor solution for extremely random enforcement.

Old Unix Geek

Apple ships the caffeinate command line tool to do the same function with its OS. Caffeine is a drug because it stimulates the central nervous system.

Someone made a fancy GUI and called it Amphetamine. Amphetamine is also a drug because it stimulates the central nervous system.

So... either Apple should ban itself from shipping its own OS to prevent offence, or Apple should not ban this 3rd party software.

If Amphetamine is unprofessional, so is caffeinate.

If one wishes to take offence at things, that is a personal decision. It doesn't even imply that anyone meant to offend you... only that you got triggered. Your mind is your problem, not anyone else's. It's up to you to learn how to live with it, and not impose your own lack of discipline on everyone else. That's not "fear of retribution", that's common sense. It's why adults don't behave like 3 year olds.

I wish we'd get over "offence" and explain our concerns causally. The argument "If people see Amphetamine as name of an app, they'll think it is cool, and are likely to become drug addicts" seems pretty easy to dismiss. If it actually were true, perhaps that would be a good thing: Darwinian selection in action. If explained properly, other concerns might actually be valid, and need addressing.

>Your mind is your problem, not anyone else's

This is literally a childish view of how to behave towards other people (I don't mean that as an insult, I literally mean that children have no theory of mind, and thus behave towards others as if their minds did not matter to them), and one you surely don't actually believe in or act upon (unless it suits your current argument).

Also:
>If it actually were true, perhaps that would be a good
>thing: Darwinian selection in action

This is an incredibly cruel thing to say. I sincerely hope you never have to deal with addiction in your family.

>If explained properly, other concerns might actually be
>valid, and need addressing

Fair enough. In my personal opinion, the general issue in these situations is that trivializing topics such as addiction diminishes them, and makes it harder to have genuine discussions about how to solve these issues. If a topic is lighthearted enough to be a funny icon for a utility app, it's not a serious topic that warrants serious discussions and requires serious solutions. Obviously, one icon on one app doesn't really matter, but these are systemic issues, where the sum of a lot of small things amount to a large thing.

To me, this falls into the same category as "ironic racism", where somebody who ostensibly is not a racist makes racist remarks as a meta-joke about racists. It's not helpful, it makes it harder to have genuine good-faith discussions about these topics, and as a side effect, it's still punching down, even if it's intended to be ironic.

Or take prison rape as another example. The fact that prison rape is often the punchline of a joke trivializes what it actually is, and is one of the reasons why there is no real urgency to help these victims of rape.

Having said that, this is clearly not why Apple initially rejected the app. That's just why I personally think this app name and icon are bad ideas.

Lukas wrote:
>So you're saying this app should be labeled as mature content?

Not at all. But if Apple thinks the name Amphetamine is offensive than surely they think Grand Theft Auto is. In the case of Grand Theft Auto, the the content of the game could also be considered offensive, while the content of a utility app like Amphetamine is not offensive at all. It'd just be hypocritical position for Apple to take (thankfully they backed off).

Everyone who takes an Amphetamine is not an addict. Amphetamines are used legally by people who do not have an addiction problem. If I named an app Cupcake would you be offended because it encourages people with a weight problem to overeat? My guess is no because an app named Cupcake ISN'T GOING TO MAKE SOMEONE ACTUALLY EAT A CUPCAKE. IF they end up eating a CUPCAKE while running the software CUPCAKE, chances are it's just a coincidence and they would probably eat a damn cupcake anyway...

Old Unix Geek

@Lukas

Of course people have theory of mind. The question is whether it is culturally accepted that just because you took offence, you get to make a nuisance of yourself. Cultures that encourage people to claim victimhood are doing a disservice to their members. Although we are mostly compassionate sentient beings, reality literally doesn't care -- it cannot. The world is not inherently just. It takes hard work to create a world that recognises everyone's intrinsic value. The people who do that work must not only survive but thrive sufficiently to have additional time and resources to lend their efforts to that cause. And the sine-qua-non of surviving and thriving is mental fortitude. It seems to me that a culture that recognises this fact will produce happier people who can help others. That is why recognising that your mind is your own problem, and that you have to work with it, rather than expecting others to coddle you, seems to me to be the most compassionate thing to do oneself, and to teach others.

My comment about Darwin was meant to be obviously ironic. Apparently it wasn't. It was supposed to be obvious, because it's obvious to most sensible people that one doesn't walk up to an addict and kick them down further. That is not the time for "tough love". But that doesn't mean one should child-proof or addict-proof the world either. Children need to grow up, and addicts need to break their addiction. That is how they become able to weather the storms life will inevitably throw at them.

As an aside: I have never understood why people find prison rape joke-worthy. It displays an acceptance of a corrupt justice system, and glee at retributive justice, rather than justice that seeks to reform... none of which do the so called "joker" any credit. It's just another one of those bizarre things people seem to do.

>The question is whether it is culturally accepted that
>just because you took offence, you get to make a
>nuisance of yourself

Sure, I think I agree, which is also why "mere offense" isn't why I think the app name is bad. Just being offended by it is a terribly poor reason to argue against the existence of something.

But I do think that your line of reasoning is somewhat self-defeating. If you take offense at people taking offense, shouldn't you not make a nuisance of yourself, and not make an argument against people who take offense, and make a nuisance of themselves? :-)

>The world is not inherently just

The world is what we make it - life is good. But it can be better.

>rather than expecting others to coddle you

I think that's the disconnect. The purpose of my criticism of this app name is not to coddle individuals, but the make systemic change about how we think about these topics as a society. Unfortunately, that requires making many small decisions differently, each of which looks inconsequential on its own.

>It displays an acceptance of a corrupt justice system,
>and glee at retributive justice

I agree.

The question is whether it is culturally accepted that just because you took offence, you get to make a nuisance of yourself. Cultures that encourage people to claim victimhood are doing a disservice to their members.

“Victimhood” plays a huge role in how cultures have evolved in the first place. Without “victimhood”, we wouldn’t have human rights or democracy.

Although we are mostly compassionate sentient beings, reality literally doesn’t care — it cannot. The world is not inherently just.

Yeah, but culture is neither “reality” nor “the world”; it’s culture. A civilized society doesn’t shrug, look at its animal instincts, and devolve to those; it uses our human abilities for intellect and empathy to develop beyond that.

Without it, art and science stand little chance. A hunter or gatherer would always win, by being first to collect food, and by keeping it to themselves. “While you were out looking for the meaning of life or figuring out the curvature of the earth, I ate. And now it’s all gone. Oops!”

It takes hard work to create a world that recognises everyone’s intrinsic value.

Questioning some of the choices society has made in the past is hard work.

And the sine-qua-non of surviving and thriving is mental fortitude.

If our society were sine qua non, we wouldn’t be teaching math and painting in elementary school.

Outsourcing is a cold mutha.

First you lose your technical depth and bugs proliferate. As well as amateur hour UX as seen in Brick Sur. Some technical debt never gets paid unlike before.

Then you lose your “cultural depth” and allow “perverse incentives” like “number of apps reviewed per day” where reviewers start going after Apps for stupid “issues” like this. Or “policing hate” where opposing cultures have very different “standards” for what “hate” is. Sharia laws work in the KSA, but not in the US, where Apple is based. Apple commodifies & secularizes a type of “Apple Sharia”, and imposes a “standard” for reviewers, since drugs are “hated” they become part of the scoring system.

This “issue” that everyone is quibbling over reeks of outsourcing, where the reviewer took the most expedient, culturally shallow route and then and equally unseasoned (Silly Valley, “churned” employee) resolved the issue. Probably over Zoom.

Employee “churn” (window of employment) at Apple and other tech corps seems to be getting shorter. If I were a young starting out I really don’t think I’d want Apple as a “first job” —- and definitely not app review or “developer relations” where the rules seem very subjective and I could be “disinvited” for contradicting a manager (see the other blog entry about the Vietnamese app reviewer who thought they were working for an American corp, when they were actually working a MultiNat. Apple is not an American Corp anymore)

@Old UNIX Geek: Sorry man, it’s a rough world out there, especially in the “global south” where Corps tap “global talent”, where a combination of “at will employment” and non-existent visa restrictions allow people to flow like water and there’s no safety net.

Apple has lost their “culture depth” and now every judgement will be just as shallow by “global common standards” (needed for outsourcing) and so you will get outcomes like this, where an icon and functionality will be “mis-interpreted” so that someone who started 2 weeks ago doesn’t get fired for not reviewing enough apps per day, who neither knows nor cares about narcolepsy or in-jokes of naming apps. Because tomorrow is another day and they have an app review count. They know they can be “churned” (replaced) at the drop of a hat.

Old Unix Geek

@Sören

“Victimhood” plays a huge role in how cultures have evolved in the first place. Without “victimhood”, we wouldn’t have human rights or democracy.

I'm confused as to which specific events you are referring, but I'd be curious to know. Please state which events based on victimhood led either to human rights or democracy.

If our society were sine qua non, we wouldn’t be teaching math and painting in elementary school.

I also don't understand this point you make. I never said "society is sine-qua-non" and I don't know what "if our society were sine qua non" even means. I said mental fortitude is sine-qua-non. So is breathing (or eating, or drinking, or sleeping, or...) Neither is Math irrelevant to survival: it was developed among other things to predict the flooding of the Nile, which otherwise would lead to much death. And our ancestors were painting when they lived in caves, and they had a much tougher life than elementary students...

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