has removed the social media platform Wimkin from its App Store, part of a widening crackdown by tech companies on potentially dangerous content during the presidential transition.
The tech giant on Tuesday suspended Wimkin, a small site that markets itself as a free-speech haven, over content that included calls for a civil war and the arrest of Vice President Mike Pence, according to Wimkin founder
and records of his correspondence with Apple.
Mr. Sheppard said on Thursday that Wimkin’s small team removed dozens of posts and a group attempting to organize a “Million Militia March” at President-elect
inauguration next week.
“Once it was reported to us, we took care of it,” Mr. Sheppard said.
Mr. Sheppard said the takedowns on the platform, which has 300,000 users and mimics some of the functions of
pales in comparison to content removals by much larger competitors.
“I can’t fault them for looking at it,” Mr. Sheppard said of Apple. “I just wish they would give us a chance.”
Apple didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
Wimkin’s suspension from the App Store is the latest move by tech firms to limit the spread of what they deem misinformation on the presidential election and potential plans for violence such as the riots that shook Capitol Hill last week.
In messages to Mr. Sheppard that he shared with The Wall Street Journal, Apple cited one post disputing the Rev. Raphael Warnock’s election as a senator for Georgia this month, saying, “WE NEED A CIVIL WAR AGAINST THESE CROOKS.” Another included faux mug shots of tech executives and accused them of treason and election-tampering.
Mr. Sheppard’s team of five moderators removed these posts, he said, as well as ejecting a group of nearly 400 users organizing a militia gathering on inauguration day to prevent Mr. Biden’s “treasonous and illegitimate” ticket from taking office. The Wimkin team also removed the group administrator’s account.
“We do have a lot of Trump supporters on our website, but we don’t allow violence,” he said. “We’re not out there to fact-check. We’re out there to keep people safe.”
Mr. Sheppard said his team is installing additional security measures, including tools that automatically flag keywords such as “murder” and “killing.” Apple’s App Review Board said in a message to Mr. Sheppard Tuesday that his proposals to limit further harmful content failed to satisfy its rules.
“Specifically, we have continued to find direct threats of violence and calls to incite lawless action,” Apple wrote.
Content posted on Wimkin Thursday included memes challenging the election outcome and comparing liberals to Hitler. Mr. Sheppard said Thursday night that he was in contact with Apple officials on possible ways to meet the tech company’s standards and eventually return to the App Store.
Apple’s removal of Wimkin puts it in the company of much larger accounts and platforms whose reach has been curtailed since the deadly Capitol Hill riot. After Facebook Inc. and
suspended President Trump’s accounts last week, Apple and Amazon.com Inc. cut off the microblogging site Parler’s access to their App Store and cloud-computing services, respectively. The tech companies’ moves have been lauded by some who think they should do more to police content on their platforms, and criticized by others who accuse them of bias and censorship.
A web developer in Pittsburgh, Mr. Sheppard said he founded Wimkin in August as an alternative to what he saw as bias against conservative speech on platforms like Facebook. He added that “Wimkin’’ derives from the acronym WMKN, or “world must know,” a reference to free speech.
Representatives of the Google Play app store also sent Mr. Sheppard a warning of potential removal Thursday morning, giving him 24 hours to implement new policies, according to a copy of their correspondence reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. Google didn’t respond to requests for comment.
“People are allowed to have their opinion as long as it doesn’t cross the line,” Mr. Sheppard said, explaining Wimkin’s hands-off approach. “People are allowed to say the election is rigged.”
Write to David Uberti at email@example.com
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