On September 9, a game called Phone Story appeared in Apple’s App store only to disappear four days later. Apple had approved the game (otherwise, it would not have appeared for sale in the App store, right?) and said that it had banned Phone Story due to “objectionable” content including its depiction of child abuse.
What Apple has not acknowledged is why Phone Story included such content: Phone Story’s intent is to show the “collateral damage” — the human toll, the lives lost — behind the manufacturing of Apple’s best-selling Phone, says ColorLines. Violations of workers’ rights and human rights around the globe occur in the creation of every iPhone. As Phone Story says on its website:
Phone Story is a game for smartphone devices that attempts to provoke a critical reflection on its own technological platform. Under the shiny surface of our electronic gadgets, behind its polished interface, hides the product of a troubling supply chain that stretches across the globe. Phone Story represents this process with four educational games that make the player symbolically complicit in coltan extraction in Congo, outsourced labor in China, e-waste in Pakistan and gadget consumerism in the West.
Keep Phone Story on your device as a reminder of your impact.
The four games on Phone Story are called Coltan, Suicides, Obsolescence and E-Waste. They are designed for users to learn about what goes into the making of their Apple device and how the environment and the humans who make Apple products are affected.
- Coltan is a mineral found in most electronic devices. Congo contains most of the world’s supply of coltan and the increasing demand for it has “produced a wave of violence and massacres in Congo” with military groups enslaving “prisoners of war, often children, to mine the precious material.”
- Twenty-one workers at the Foxconn plant where iPhones and iPads are manufactured have died by jumping from factory dormitories or work buildings and many more have attempted suicide. Foxconn, located in Shenzhen in southern China, is the country’s largest private company.
- You might say your life depends on your iPhone 4 but you know that, once the iPhone 5 appears, you’ll be all too ready to discard 4 for 5. This is the phenomenon of “perceived obsolescence,” whereby “companies produce newer models that make your old phone seem like it came from the stone age. “
- Thanks to our insatiable “need” for “the latest,” we’re producing 25 million pounds of e-waste a year. Not only is this waste highly toxic but “50-80% of electronic waste collected in the USA is exported to developing nations where it is ‘recycled’ in dangerous ways that emit pollutants dangerous to human health and the environment.”
It’s not exactly surprising that Apple found such information “objectionable.” But with Apple products so coveted that some compare Apple devotees to religious fanatics, the company is certainly in a position to take at least a little criticism. But Apple, it seems, prefers to allow none at all in its App store.
Phone Story was developed by Molleindustria and all revenues from its sale go “directly to workers’ organizations and other non-profits that are working to stop the horrors represented in the game.” Indeed, the first organization that is to receive donations is SACOM, Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior, which has been “strenuously working on the Foxconn case.”
Phone Story is still available for purchase on the Android.
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Photo by BeauGiles