Copyright ©2012 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

There are apps on the iPhone that will send you a message when news breaks.

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BLOCK: When you're mentioned on Facebook or Twitter.

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BLOCK: Or even if your favorite ball team scores a run.

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BLOCK: But as NPR's Steve Henn reports, not all apps that send you messages are allowed in the Apple app store.

STEVE HENN, BYLINE: Josh Begley created an app that sends push notifications to an iPhone, when there's a U.S. drone strike anywhere in the world. Apple blocked it from its app store.

JOSH BEGLEY: And they said that the app has excessively objectionable or crude content - which I found somewhat curious because it literally is a republishing of news; just tracking when strikes happen.

HENN: There are no gory pictures, no classified information; but Begley admits he's trying to make a political point about these strikes.

BEGLEY: It is changing the face of warfare, and there are serious questions. And I think that it's worth having a conversation about.

HENN: Apple didn't agree. And Apple routinely blocks apps from its store that it finds objectionable. There's no porn. Hate speech is verboten. In 2009, Apple blocked an app created by a Pulitzer prize-winning cartoonist. Later Steve Jobs called that a mistake. Apple has removed apps encouraging people to take stands against gay marriage, and one that promised to help gays become straight. Ryan Calo, a law professor at the University of Washington, says as a private company, Apple has the right to sell - or not sell - whatever it wants. And he respects that.

RYAN CALO: But I think that these kinds of borderline examples, they ought to be finding in favor of free speech - just as good corporate citizens, setting an example worldwide.

HENN: Calo says as more of our public conversations take place inside privately managed digital communities - like the app store, or Facebook - these kinds of corporate decisions will carry even more weight.

Steve Henn, NPR News, Silicon Valley.

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