A controversial program for the iPhone called "Baby Shaker" was added to, then pulled from, Apple's App Store this week after protests about the program's offensive nature dealing with a deadly serious subject.
Child protection groups were outraged by the 99-cent app for the iPhone and iPhone touch, which encourages those frustrated with babies' crying to shake them, or in this case, shake their devices to change drawings of a crying baby to a calm one.
Apple, "which notoriously and routinely rejects new apps from developers with a 'rigorous' vetting process, nonetheless apparently allowed this horrible application to be sold through its store," said the Sarah Jane Brain Foundation, whose aim is assist in the research of new developments for children with pediatric acquired brain injuries such as Shaken Baby Syndrome.
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"Not only are they making fun of Shaken Baby Syndrome but they are actually encouraging it. This is absolutely terrible," said Marilyn Barr, founder of the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome and a board member of the Sarah Jane Brain Foundation.
Apple, asked about why the Baby Shaker app was approved and how long it was available before being pulled, did not answer those questions.
"It was removed today," was the only statement Wednesday from Natalie Kerris of Apple.
Sikalosoft, listed as the developer of Baby Shaker, could not be reached for comment.
Baby Shaker was made available Monday in the App Store, according to Krapps.com, which first reported on the program.
The site, which says it covers the "lighter and krazy side of apps," said it wasn't on "some vigilante justice hunt," and believes there was no "malicious intent" on the part of the program's creator.
But, the site said, "Come on … combining the title Baby Shake with the objective of stopping an annoying crying baby is simply irresponsible and utterly idiotic. You would think Apple would stay totally clear of any iPhone app remotely resembling child abuse."
On its site, Sikalosoft describes Baby Shaker:
"On a plane, on the bus, in a theater. Babies are everywhere you don't want them to be! They're always distracting you from preparing for that big presentation at work with their incessant crying. Before Baby Shaker there was nothing you could do about it.
"Now, Baby Shaker gives you a charming drawing of a baby sure to make those with a less than iron will fawn. True to life, it begins to annoy you immediately. See how long you can endure his or her adorable cries before you just have to find a way to quiet the baby down!"
And almost as an afterthought there is this sentence: "Never, never shake a baby."
Apple, which should see its 1 billionth App Store program downloaded this week, has more than 25,000 programs in the App Store. The store, launched last summer, lets iPhone and iPod touch users directly download programs onto their devices. Early on, CEO Steve Jobs said the kinds of programs that would be rejected were those that deal with pornography, or with inadequate security.
The company has been criticized by software developers for not allowing other kinds of programs, such as those that pass digital gas, into the App Store.
Such apps ultimately were approved, although the developer of one, "Whoopie Cushion," was first told by Apple that his program did not "comply with Community Standards,” programs that have “any obscene, pornographic, offensive or defamatory content or materials of any kind (text, graphics, images, photographs, etc.) or other content or materials that in Apple’s reasonable judgment may be found objectionable by iPhone or iPod touch users.”
"Baby Shaker" may have been one that slipped through Apple's approval process. No matter.
Patrick Donohue, founder of the Sarah Jane Brain Foundation, said Wednesday he sent an e-mail to Apple executives that said, in part, "As the father of a 3-year-old who was shaken by her baby nurse when she was only five days old, breaking three ribs, both collarbones and causing a severe brain injury, words cannot describe my reaction."