Banning Gay “Cure” Apps and Police Tipoff Tools: Are We Overreacting?

By  |  Thursday, March 24, 2011 at 6:02 am

Between the controversies over gay “cure” apps and police checkpoint tipoff tools, it’s been a tough week for Apple’s App Store. But while it’s pretty clear that an app designed to “cure” homosexuality verges on hate speech, are we courting trouble, turning which apps are “acceptable” and which ones aren’t into a political nannying game?

Take “police avoidance.” Senators Frank Lautenberg, Harry Reid, Charles Schumer, and Tom Udall are asking Apple, Google, and RIM to scupper mobile applications designed, it seems, to help inebriated drivers dodge police. The senators also dispatched letters to the companies that designed the apps, requesting they either pull them or excise a “DUI checkpoint” feature.

The apps allow users to view realtime updates of checkpoints reported by others, a kind of “citizen awareness” system designed to give drivers who may or may not be inebriated a tactical edge. Think of it as a more sophisticated version of the light-blink signal oncoming driver sometimes give to warn of a speed trap up the road in the other direction.

Driving under the influence is no joke and rightly condemned. The number of people killed in alcohol-related traffic accidents annually is more than triple the number that died in the September 11 attacks. Make no mistake, drunk driving is dangerous, irresponsible, and illegal.

But so is driving over the speed limit. And yet–with the exception of Virginia and Washington D.C.–we don’t ban or outlaw the use of radar detectors in private vehicles, also every bit a “police avoidance” tool.

Assuming the answer isn’t that we instantly outlaw the latter, do we want companies like Apple or individuals in government office deciding what’s salable and what’s not? We have laws that protect citizens from hate speech. We have laws that make drunk driving illegal. But we have no laws that render basic citizen coordination illegal.

It’s barely a hop from banning an app that offers police checkpoint tips (not unlike the use of CBs by truck drivers) to banning one that helps peaceful protesters organize, or others that assist watchdog groups (including journalists) to serve as an independent monitor of power (see The Elements of Journalism)–to “watch the watchmen,” if you will.

I’m not saying trying to elude the police while driving under the influence is ethical. I’m just saying we need to be cautious here, so that in the process of doing what seems like the right or common sense thing at the time, doesn’t lend itself to cries for bans of anything whatsoever deemed culturally or politically controversial.


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25 Comments For This Post

  1. NanoGeek Says:

    It’s wrong to call Exodus International’s app hate speech. They (to my knowledge) never promised a “gay cure”. The app was designed for people, presumably Christians, who have homosexual tendencies and DON’T WANT THEM to get help. The Bible says, in no uncertain terms, that homosexuality is wrong. That can’t be denied. You may disagee, and that’s fine, but don’t treat them like the KKK because of their beliefs.

    Now, if we want to talk about hate speech, take a gander at some of the comments from “tolerant”, pro gay members of the online community. I saw several comments from people wishing death on or wanting to kill all Christians, comparing them to Nazis, etc. No, these people don’t represent everyone who is for homosexual marriage. They are one the fringe, just like the Westborrow ‘church’ is. It is possible to disagree with someone’s lifestyle without hating them.

  2. jltnol Says:

    fIf you turn off ALL the traffic cams and redlight cams and all the money making schemes cities have enacted to MAKE MONEY, I'd consider not using these apps… but as long as the city has a tech advantage, you can bet your sweet a$$ I will do my best to keep up with them.

  3. The_Heraclitus Says:

    "But while it’s pretty clear that an app designed to “cure” homosexuality verges on hate speech"

    LOL. Hardly, unless one is into censorship. But then again, only a tiny fraction of computer users use the H/W in question so not a problem.

  4. Vulpine Says:

    About the only people who would download and try to use a 'Cure' app are the people who are already homophobic. Personally, I'd say ignore it and let it die an ignoble death by neglect. Anything else simply draws attention to it and makes it a political target.

    As for the checkpoint app, honestly if a person is drunk enough to get tagged by one of these checkpoints, they're probably too drunk to even understand the warning when the app triggers it. I, personally, know when I can feel the effects of alcohol and stop… but then, I'm a personal 'control freak' who needs to be in control of themselves at all times–a totally separate issue.

    The arguments like jitnol's above totally overlook the main purpose of such devices, though I won't deny that some locations are misused. That misuse can be challenged, if you can prove it with even a little work on your own. Where I live, those red-light cams have certainly reduced the number of collisions at the intersections where they're placed; speed cams also work, especially when they're matched with a display indicating the target vehicle's speed as it approaches. People speed, whether it's legal or not; those who speed excessively are dangerous. People who blatantly ignore traffic laws need to realize that they're not only breaking the law, but endangering others.

  5. The_Heraclitus Says:

    "About the only people who would download and try to use a 'Cure' app are the people who are already homophobic"

    Really? What is your scientific basis for that conclusion? Or, is it just your opinion?

  6. vereth01 Says:

    "But while it’s pretty clear that an app designed to “cure” homosexuality verges on hate speech…" Please apply your principle of being careful not to ban something because it's culturally controversial to both issues. While anti-homosexuality can be grounded in hate, believing (as most Christians do) that it is a behavioral choice which can be changed does not necessarily constitute hate speech.

    BTW, as someone who doesn't need to avoid check-points due to drinking, I could find the app handy to avoid them due to traffic congestion. There are legitimate uses of the app for the law-abiding. I would hate to see our government (again) seek to ban something lawful for the sole reason that some may use it unethicallly.

  7. Guest Says:

    Most christians? I doubt that and I as a christian I find that generalization very insulting. There is nothing christian about bigotry.

  8. NanoGeek Says:

    This has nothing to do with bigotry. There are several bible verses condemning homosexuality.

    Romans 1:26-27 – "Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion."

    Leviticus 18:22 – "Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable."

    Corinthians 6:9-10 – "Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God."

    Now, if you don't believe that homosexuality is wrong, that's fine. You're allowed to believe what you want. But how can you say that Christianity doesn't condem it when it's clearly stated in the Bible that homosexuality is wrong?

    P.S. It's rather odd that everyone's yelling "Bigot!" at vereth01 when he never once gave his opinion or said anything against homosexuals. Lets make sure we're all being tolerant here.

  9. The same guest Says:

    However divinely inspired, the bible was written by men who brought to it their own various prejudices. Many if, not most of world's christians understand this and it tempers their understanding of such passages. I don't think most christians base their understanding of the nature of homosexuality on biblical passages. There is considerable evidence that sexual orientation is not a choice. To suggest that because one is christian that one believes in the biblical view over the scientific one sounds like religious bigotry to me.

    Your interpretation of Christianity isn't the only one.

  10. NanoGeek Says:

    You can't say that homosexuality isn't a choie. Everything's a choice. If I wanted, I could force myself not to eat or drink even though it's necessary for my survival. You don't always have to act on your instincts.

    As far as the Bible goes, if you are going to selectively choose what to follow and what to not, why even use it as a moral guide? How do you know what's true and what isn't? What's the point of believing in something that you disagree with?

  11. the same guest Says:

    Whether you act on your instincts or not, you still have them. Even if a homosexual abstains for sex his/her entire life. That person's sexual orientation is still homosexual. It is not whether you have sex, or with whom you have it which defines orientation, but with whom instinctively you want to have sex.

    And which version of Bible would that be? Don't forget Christians spent centuries killing and torturing each other over that question. THE BIBLE is a very selective collection of Judaic-Christian religious writings. There are many more worth reading and studying and there are some that do not transcend the time in which they were written and are little more than historical curiosities – imo.

  12. jemmini criket Says:

    I know this will get a rant on Christians, but we are living just before the last days. Jesus is going to return one day and we will all have to answer for what we have said and done. I pray many in this forum need to come to Christ before it is too late. "and they will call good evil, and evil good". Christians are to love everyone, including gay and lesbian oriented folk. But the Bible, every word is inspired by the Holy Spirit and not just man's words. That makes it infallible. One only needs to check history as to its prophecy's to see that every one that has been fulfilled have been 100% accurate. Mathematically as well as spiritually speaking it is inerrant. You and I will be judged by this book whether one believes it or not. I pray our nation will return to Christ, but it looks like people want to have things their way, and that the Bible says "will lead them to destruction".

  13. Vulpine Says:

    You just hit the nail on the head: " How do you know what's true and what isn't?" You can listen to ten different clergymen teach about the exact same passage in the Bible and probably get ten different interpretations out of it. I'm not saying the Bible isn't a guide, but you should follow the intent of the lessons, not the letter–in 2000 years, the letter has changed many times.

    But one thing stands out: Christianity was built on the words of Christ the teacher. He taught things like "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you", and "Judge not, lest ye be judged". Stop trying to pick meaning out of isolated passages and learn the lessons of the parables. The Old Testament is a history of the Jewish people, the New Testament is a collection of stories and books hand-picked by the Catholic Church 1200 years ago and longer. We've lost the original meanings. We've lost much of the original writings.
    If the only thing we learn from the Bible is tolerance and fairness to others, that would be a huge step forward for mankind.

  14. Vulpine Says:

    You give yourself the lie in your own words. The King James Bible from which your quote originates does NOT use the word Homosexual, and the word that is used refers to a male prostitute and prostitution in general rather than the specific sexual bent of the offender. More recent versions of the Bible have changed to word to suit their own meaning, essentially ignoring the word's original meaning. Quite honestly, the only accurate translation of the Bible would be one translated directly from the original languages, not translations of translations of translations.

  15. Mark Says:

    @vereth01 apparently you've chosen to ignore all the research that's pretty conclusive that one doesn't choose their orientation any more than their skin color. And you know what, you don't have any right to discriminate on either just because you feel like your beliefs compel you to. Bigotry is bigotry, and it is just as ugly when religion gets bantered around as an excuse for racism OR homophobia. While you don't hear as many people using religion to justify their racism, it seems like it's still at least debatable in some people's minds that homophobia is still OK if you've chosen to believe something that has been proven untrue over and over. But hey it's your choice to be a bigot right?

  16. vereth01 Says:

    First, there is NO research that proves anything of the sort. Second, I never said anything about discrimination. But, it seems to you that calling anything wrong must, of necessity, be discrimination. Which, ironically, makes your hatred of my position as discriminatory as what you accuse me of. The only thing you can't tolerate is someone who disagrees with your tolerance? Third, I know a lot of persons of color who would cringe at your comparing racial discrimination (and the battles that have been fought to do away with it) to homosexuality. You might want to think about whom you are offending.

  17. Vulpine Says:

    To tell you the truth, vereth01 didn't express a personal opinion one way or the other about homosexuals; he was merely pointing out that one group will believe one way and another the other way. In essence, your own post expresses more bigotry than his as a result.

  18. vereth01 Says:

    And the real point of the article is something I hope we all agree on – censorship is dangerous. I fully support Apple's right (as a private company) to delete any and all apps it wants to. Personally, they don't have to justify anything to me (or anyone else, really). It's THEIR app store. If I don't agree, I don't have to buy Apple products. If it's not illegal, then let the marketplace of free ideas rule.

  19. NanoGeek Says:

    Strange. I had a comment on this article, but it doesn't seem to be here any more. Was it removed, or is it simply a software glitch?

  20. frenk Says:

    And one more thought about the traffic apps..

    The police don't like them because they cut into their revenues…

    Given the choice between safe drivers or ticket revenue, which one do you think lawmakers really want?

  21. Eric Says:

    I complained to Apple about the Exodus app, because the app developers did not give the app an appropriate rating when they submitted the app.

    The “Student Blog” section of the app discussed masturbation, pornography, and sex. Hardly topics that warrant a 4+ rating. Because the developers violated the terms of their agreement with Apple, Apple pulled the app from the App Store.

    If the app reappears on the App Store with a 17+ rating, then we can talk about what the developer agreement means by “offensive content”.

  22. The_Heraclitus Says:

    As I thought. You throw out a diagnosis of people you have never met based WHOLLY on your unstable emotions.

    Speaks VOLUMES about your mental stability.

  23. Vulpine Says:

    Who's being emotional here?

    I'm sorry, but I have met a lot of people in my life, of almost every walk of life. I think I have a better feel for what people in general will do than you–especially the people that specific app tried to target.

    Turn off your emotional, knee-jerk reactions and try to think rationally; you're only hurting your own argument–which is why your reputation score here is so low.

  24. The_Heraclitus Says:

    When you have SUCCESSFULLY completed an 8th grave level science course, give me a call.

  25. The_Heraclitus Says:

    Another in nutjob.