Imposing Bans and App Store Sanctions

Brent Simmons wrote about imposing sanctions by making apps unavailable in certain countries (in his case: Saudi Arabia) in November 2018.

I never thought about the mere possibility of doing so. It's an intriguing thought: even when politics don't result in whatever you want, you can always be picky about who you do custom with. It's a power we have, a power every producer and craftsperson has. Turn down a business for moral reasons.

Naturally, I talked this through with a friend. We both met through our philosophy studies at university, so I knew the discussion would bear fruit. He pointed out that imposing bans on a country level may have unintended consequences. Take China for example, a more recent bogeyman of sorts. Do you want to take your app from Chinese stores to "punish the system"? If so, you'll also punish the investigative journalists in China, he pointed out. Your actions will have casualties.

Well, what a bummer. The power fantasy is intriguing: you churn out code and you can influence international politics and the world, in a way! – But unless you talk with every customer before their purchase, you'll end up punishing all the wrong people, too. Collateral damage. I don't like that a bit.

I don't know why Brent asked about Saudi Arabia. Because their funding of terrorism? Who funds this? All Saudis? Does your app promote terrorism-funding? Do you really want to punish Saudi Arabia's government instead of its people? What do you talk about when you talk about a country, really?

So for now I will not be imposing bans on any specific country, even though I could: FastSpring, my e-commerce provider of choice, provides the capabilities to impose filters. Not going to use them any time soon.

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