Apple’s Ping Launch Openly Censored Lady Gaga’s Pro-Gay Tweets

by Violet Blue on September 1, 2010

Lady GaGa - Vanity Fair 2

Today Apple launched their new music social network Ping (basically a clone of Last.fm), and in Apple’s promotional image for the new feature, they very obviously removed a thread of Tweets from Lady Gaga’s timeline where she clearly spoke out celebrating being pro-gay, about California’s anti-gay marriage legislation, Prop 8.

Seriously.

Apple, we see you.

::pause for the scream of WTF on loop in my head thinking about my gay friends who work at Apple.

Those of us who live in the SF Bay Area know that when Lady Gaga was in town for her San Jose shows, she paid a visit to Apple Headquarters and got a tour. Everyone around here wondered why. This was likely when it was discussed, pre-launch, that they would use her for the Ping page example. She shot a video there for them, it was in the Apple keynote. So either she knew her messages of tolerance (which sell quite well, by the way) were going to be censored, or Apple did not tell her. I wonder which it was.

Here’s the Daily Swarm with the story (thedailyswarm.com).

BUT — I screencapped her timeline just now so you can see what Apple removed. Apple’s version for Ping launch:

Her *actual* timeline:

Violet Blue

The London Times named Violet Blue "One of the 40 bloggers who really count" and Self Magazine named TinyNibbles one of the “Best Sex Resources for Women.” Blue is an autodidact and pundit on sex and technology, hacking and security, porn for women, privacy and bleeding-edge tech culture. She is a journalist for ZDNet, CBS News, CNET; she's an educator, speaker, crisis counselor, volunteer NGO trainer, and the author and editor of over 40 award-winning books.

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{ 12 comments }

1 huxi September 5, 2010 at 4:54 am

There is no auto-post of Tweets.

For example, http://twitter.com/ladygaga/status/23027935862 was pinged two hours later while http://twitter.com/ladygaga/status/23035974894 wasn’t pinged at all.

I have no problem with deserved Apple bashing for their strange morality concerning apps in the AppStore.

This, however, is undeserved Apple bashing based on an non-issue.

2 PHB September 3, 2010 at 7:43 pm

Having done PR launches in the tech industry, I suspect that what happened here was that they agreed on a set of tweets to appear in the promotional material in advance of the launch. We spend weeks agreeing the exact wording of press releases and in a public company everything you can imagine has to be checked and rechecked by legal.

So having agreed on the tweets they then queue them up to be injected into the twitter stream on the agreed date and times. Only it just so happens that there is some actual news happening and so Gaga is posting at the same time.

If you look you will see that Apple also dropped the result of the teen choice awards and she has two post-concert tweets.

The reason that we have to do all this stuff is that media relations for a public company are a BFD. If you get something wrong you can end up tanking the stock price or someone can go to jail. I had some friends in Ireland who ran a company that collapsed after the CEO said the wrong thing in a semi-private meeting. He said that sales looked flat, which was a material statement so they had to release a PR immediately which the market saw without knowing the reason it had to be made.

3 Ben September 3, 2010 at 3:14 am

I can’t speak for apple as far as why they chose to edit the twit feed the way they did, but it’s unfair to insinuate that apple is any way not “gay-friendly” They publicly opposed California’s prop 8, and even donated $100,000 to the no on 8 campaign. Also, your gay friends (and mine) who work for apple are probably eased by the fact that apple

“was among the first California companies to offer equal rights and benefits to our employees’ same-sex partners, and we strongly believe that a person’s fundamental rights — including the right to marry — should not be affected by their sexual orientation”

http://www.tuaw.com/2008/10/24/apple-opposes-calif-prop-8-donates-100k-to-no-campaign/

that quote is from their press release at the time that prop 8 was on the ballot. Also I suspect that anyone who works at apple is familiar with their tendency to censor anything even remotely sexual (gay, straight, or otherwise) from their various online stores and probably didn’t “WTF” too hard about what really isn’t that big of a deal.

4 Vera September 2, 2010 at 9:57 pm

@Michael, inequality is only a purely “political” issue, not to mention an issue to be ignored or hidden when inconvenient, to those who aren’t affected by it. Check your privilege and leave me to do with my pitchfork what I damn well please.

5 violet September 2, 2010 at 7:11 pm

@Joost, I agree that the mechanics behind the status updates are a consideration. However, Apple has shown this year that they blur morality with implementation. And that is part of the problem. A problem I think many businesses will learn from, as it is a weakness and a failing to understand customers — who, when free to choose, will take an uncensored Gaga over her Disneyfied counterpart.

Three things:

1. It’s highly likely that Apple has automated the status updates, as artists are not prone to double-post or censor themselves. My guess is that the status updates are being run through Apple’s notorious word-matching software, the very same that gets them in hot water for censoring books.

2. Lady Gaga, like it or not, has over 5 million followers on Twitter and the most viewed videos on YouTube, ever. This artist is the most demanded artist at this time. She and her work are desired as a whole. Lady Gaga tells every audience that she could give a fuck about people who are not her fans. She makes everyone scream and dance to pro-gay, f-word laced statements. She states that she only cares about making her fans happy. Apple is not going to make her fans happy by diluting her message and her brand. Nor are they understanding what is selling the product. This, to me, is a fundamental failure to understand a significant consumer shift.

3. By presenting a fundamentally different version of a brand (product, artist, media package), Apple is presenting a false version of a product. This is dishonest. This makes Apple look untrustworthy. If I were a conservative anti-gay lady that loved dance music and bought some Gaga based on the Ping page, I would be shocked and offended when I started to see the real picture. I would wonder, What other unpleasant bait-and-switch can I expect in my next purchase?

I sort of wonder that now. If I see a rap star looking amazing in Ping and then I buy his music, only to discover that on his *actual* Twitter he’s bragging about smacking around his bitches and whores, well then I would never trust Apple again. I’d want my money back.

And Daniel, yes, many of us are pissed about the false product presented in the promo image. It’s a lie. Apple are supposed to be smarter than that. If they don’t like the Gaga product, so much that they need to falsify the core values of the product, they should choose another one.

6 Joost Schuur September 2, 2010 at 4:00 pm

Slight correction to something I said earlier. the iPhone iTunes app does have a Ping section now. As a user, you can comment, and it’s conceivable that artists have the option to send status updates via it too, but before we raise too much moral outrage here, let’s ask how the tech behind these updates work first.

It’s an important topic, and it’s great that it’s being raised here, but don’t forget Occam’s Razor.

7 Rhacodactylus September 2, 2010 at 9:13 am

Not a smart move apple, considering it’s basically hipsters who are into your product anyways, bad group to offend.

8 Daniel Markham September 2, 2010 at 8:05 am

Really? Up in arms over editing the promotional image? Get back to me when you have evidence of them tampering/editing someon’s actual timeline (not an image of the timeline). Plus, @Joost Schuur raises some compelling technical questions that need to be answered. Just another scoop without substance.

9 Jason September 2, 2010 at 5:32 am

Um, is this really shocking? From the same folks who’ve kicked your pieces to the curb, the same CEO who states what people should not view on his devices, etc.? I rather doubt if Lady Gaga had anything to do beyond giving permission to be used.

This is how Apple works. It has been how Apple has worked since the triumphant return of the king. (Who, BTW, refuses to put a front license plate on his car. Law? Doesn’t apply.)

I’m more shocked at the continuing Apple fan-fest around the US.

10 Michael Seymour September 2, 2010 at 5:02 am

Is it quite possible that Apple censored them not because it is about gay rights, but because it is a politically charged and very sensitive issue? Hmmm, that seems more plausible than what you’re implying with your blog post title. Put down your pitchfork, please.

11 genewitch September 2, 2010 at 3:56 am

Joost: redbull doesn’t actually give you wings. it’s an AD. it’s supposed to draw you in to the site.

12 Joost Schuur September 1, 2010 at 10:43 pm

Do we know for sure that artists have their tweets automatically imported into Ping? As a normal user, you don’t have this option, nor can you even write your own free flow status updates.

Are the top featured artists getting their status updates manually added by Apple staff or are they retroactively edited? Or, if it’s all manual, are artists forgetting to tweet in both locations? Consider too that you can’t update your Ping tweets without iTunes, so if it’s manual, updates on the go aren’t going to appear. Her Prop8 tweets say ‘web’, but could that be mobile web tweets too?

Not saying it’s not happening, but I wonder about the process of getting tweets into Ping.

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