Developers say that Apple has rejected their coronavirus app submissions
According to CNBC, Apple has rejected submissions from developers trying to publish apps that give information about the coronavirus. In order to prevent the dissemination of misleading information about the rapidly spreading disease, the tech giant will not approve any new apps that aren't from trusted health institutions like hospitals, or governments. Four independent developers revealed that their apps were rejected by Apple even though they merely provided the latest data on confirmed cases broken down by country. The information came directly from reliable sources like the World Health Organization (WHO).
Google removed all coronavirus related apps from the Play Store to prevent the spread of misinformation
A screenshot viewed by CNBC contained a letter from Apple to one of the four developers telling him that "apps with information about current medical information need to be submitted by a recognized institution." Another developer told the cable business channel that he was told over the phone by Apple that any apps related to COVID-19 or coronavirus must be released by a government or official health agency. Developers who had coronavirus related apps rejected by Apple said that app reviewers for the company cited a guideline numbered 5.2.1; the latter says that "apps should be submitted by the person or legal entity that owns or has licensed the intellectual property and other relevant rights."
Search results for coronavirus apps from the App Store (L) and Google Play Store
Thanks to Apple's rules, the App Store is not inundated with apps giving misleading information about the outbreak. Just a couple of days ago Amazon removed over one million products from its online store that made bogus claims about their ability to protect or cure people from the coronavirus. Facebook has banned ads from its platforms that spread misleading claims about sure-fire cures for the disease. CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that he was "focused on making sure everyone can access credible and accurate information." Search for the coronavirus on Google search and you'll see links to the CDC and WHO. Google also has banned ads that promote bogus anti-coronavirus products.
The App Association is an industry group that represents developers. The group's president, Morgan Reed, said, "Right now the technology industry is working very hard to ensure the platforms are not being used to provide people with false or, even worse, dangerous information about the coronavirus. We are seeing significant pressure inside and outside to halt applications and advertisements before they harm citizens."
Part of the issue, at least in the U.S., is that the Trump administration and trusted health organizations are at odds over certain aspects of the outbreak. President Trump himself has told Americans that the disease is a "hoax." He also said that it will dissipate next month when the weather warms up; yesterday, Trump told Americans that it was safe to go to work even for those who have been diagnosed with the disease. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has refuted each of these comments.
The Google Play coronavirus website includes lists to helpful apps from the CDC and the American Red Cross
A search for coronavirus apps in the App Store returned an official app from the government written in Portuguese. Another app called Relief Central contains data from the WHO, CDC, and Johns Hopkins. Among the results is a video game called Bio Inc. Nemesis that allows you to "assemble a team of doctors and inflict lethal diseases on hapless patients." Interestingly, a search for coronavirus apps in the Google Play Store showed that there were no results. Google says that this was done on purpose to prevent the spread of misinformation.
Google Play did publish a website called Coronavirus: Stay informed. This site contains listings for apps from the CDC, American Red Cross, Doctor On Demand, News 360 and (surprisingly) Twitter. The latter is usually a hotbed of misinformation.