The tragic school shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida last month once again thrust the gun control debate into the national spotlight. While gun control has long been a contentious issue, the Parkland shooting seemed to inflame both sides in a way we haven’t seen since the Sandy Hook shooting back in 2012. While gun control proponents maintain that semi-automatic rifles like the AR-15 should be banned outright, those on the other side of the debate believe that such bans would do little, if anything, to curb school shootings.
One of the more interesting things to emerge following the Parkland shooting was the response from corporations who, as a general rule, tend to avoid immersing themselves in such controversies. In the immediate aftermath of the shooting, a number of major corporations — including Delta, Hertz, and United Airlines — decided to sever ties with the NRA and stop offering members discounts. What’s more, Dick’s Sporting Goods in late February said that it would stop selling assault-style rifles altogether while Walmart said it would no longer sell guns to anyone under the age of 21.
In light of the aforementioned corporations stepping up to the plate, there has also been some pressure on tech companies to take a stand. Specifically, companies like Apple, Amazon, and Roku have been criticized by gun control advocates for keeping the NRA TV channel on their respective TV streaming platforms.
Recently, Apple executive Eddy Cue — who made an appearance at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas a few days ago — explained why the NRA TV app is still available on Apple TV.
First off, Cue addressed the balance Apple tries to make when deciding what type of content can be allowed on any of its platforms.
We think when you have a large platform, there’s a lot of responsibility…. And so we came up with guidelines that had to be followed in order to participate in there. The other part is that nobody is completely free. There’s no such thing as free. There’s no pornography on any of [Apple’s] 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 supremacy or hate speech is free speech that’s important to be out there. You know, we denied bomb-making apps, apps that were submitted into our store that would teach you how to make a bomb. We just don’t think that’s something we want on our platform, and so we draw those lines.
When specifically asked about Apple’s decision to keep the NRA TV channel up and running, Cue responded:
What we do is we draw a set of guidelines that are published, so everyone in the world can read them. If it doesn’t follow the guidelines, we obviously don’t allow it in the store. And we do think it’s important, we have certainly the NRA TV app, we also have pro-gun control apps in our store. It’s important for America and the world to have debate on certain issues, from that standpoint. But if it falls off – I’ll give you an example – from day one we decided that we did not want our App Store to be a place that you buy and sell guns, and so we don’t allow apps that allow you to buy or sell guns. And, again, free speech is something we stand behind and it is important, but that doesn’t mean it’s everything.