Citing App Store guidelines, Apple has pulled "QDrops," an app meant to alert adherents to new developments in the fringe conspiracy theory.
The app was dropped from the App Store Sunday, after reporters from NBC News discovered it and alerted Apple. The app, launched in April, reached as high as No. 10 on the App Store charts and No. 1 in the App Store's Entertainment section.
"The App Store has always supported all points of view being represented, as long as the apps are respectful to users with differing opinions and the quality of the experience is great,"Apple's Stephanie Saffer said in a statement to the media that was published by NBC News. "We have published clear guidelines that developers must follow in order for their apps to be distributed by the App Store, designed to foster innovation and provide a safe environment to all of our users. We will take swift action to remove any apps that violate our guidelines or the law — we take this responsibility very seriously."
The developers of QDrops are a "husband and wife team out of North Carolina" named Richard and Adalita Brown, the NBC report said. The app cost 99 cents, meaning Apple received a cut of the revenue. It was also on the Google Play store, and remains there, as of Monday night.
The QDrops Twitter account remains active, and it posted Monday that it hopes to get back in the App Store:
As some of you know by now, QDrops has been pulled from the App Store due to this anti-Q article https://t.co/morRm0FUGk We are working with Apple to alleviate any concerns they may have so that we can be put back on the store. 1/2— QDrops App (@qdropsapp) July 16, 2018
Who is Q?
The QAnon conspiracy theory is bizarre and convoluted, but its general contours involve a supposed high-level government official (known as "Q") who claims to have government secrets. "Q" shares references to them, cryptically, on 4Chan and other parts of the internet underworld. The QDrops app was meant to alert followers about new postings.
"Q" claims that forces in the government are fighting back, on behalf of President Trump and against the "Deep State," in what's known as "The Storm" or "The Great Awakening." Some adherents believe that Hillary Clinton and other top Democrats have been "secretly arrested." The Daily Beast's Will Sommer is among the journalists who have attempted to explain the theory.
The theory is connected to "Pizzagate" — the bogus premise that Clinton and other top Democrats were running a sex abuse ring out of a Washington pizzeria — and a newer, equally false theory that "rape camps" were found in the Arizona desert.
While there's no evidence that the person claiming to be "Q" is actually who they say they are — or really, for any of the theory's assurances at all — the conspiracy theory has gained in popularity over time, with attendees at recent Trump rallies sporting "Q" shirts and signs. The controversial entertainer Roseanne Barr is also a vocal QAnon adherent.
App Store rules
Apple isn't clear on which rules of the App Store were broken by QDrops, but this is clearly an issue that has been on the mind of Apple's leaders.
Speaking at South by Southwest in March, Apple's Eddy Cue talked a bit about Apple's guidelines on the App Store and its other platforms.
"At times we got some heat for it, people weren't happy that we had guidelines. The other part is that no one is completely free. There's no such thing as free," Cue said during an onstage interview. "There's no pornography on any of these sites, so people do draw lines, and you can decide where you want to draw the line. We do think free speech is important, but we don't think white supremacist speech or hate speech is free speech that ought to be out there."
Apple is far from the only tech company that's become part of similar controversies. Facebook, which notoriously allowed bogus news to infiltrate its platform during the 2016 presidential election, drew fire in recent days for demoting — but not removing — Alex Jones' conspiracy website InfoWars from its platform, according to a CNN report.
However, it's not only opponents of the conspiracy theory who were opposed to the app. In a thread about the QDrops app on r/GreatAwakening, a Reddit forum dedicated to the QAnon theory, some objected to the idea of a software developer seeking to make money off of the QAnon community.
"Q said no outside coms," user "Johnny Oldschool" posted in April. "And get f— - trying to make money off this you sack of shit."
Editor's note: Due to its political nature, comments for this article have been disabled.