Pepe the Frog started out as a relatively innocent character in a little-known web comic, and was ultimately transformed into a meme that became strongly associated with the alt-right. Now, there’s evidence that Apple has banned the amphibian outright, as the company has rejected an app called Pepe Scream.
Pepe Scream is an unusual take on the Flappy Bird formula. Much like Dong Nguyen’s runaway hit, it’s about maneuvering a character between tight gaps — but instead of tapping the screen, altitude is maintained by yelling into the iPhone’s microphone.
However, the actual gameplay contained within Pepe Scream doesn’t seem to have factored into the app’s rejection. It seems that Apple considers Pepe the Frog to be a breach of its App Store guidelines, having stated to developer Spirit Realm Games that the inclusion of the character amounted to “objectionable content.”
Spirit Realm Games claims to have only featured “innocuous” versions of the Pepe meme in its game. However, it’s clear that the app uses the character in an attempt to take advantage of its notoriety — and as of 2017, that notoriety hinges on the fact that it has become a talisman for the alt-right.
Apple prides itself on its ability to curate the App Store, in an attempt to ensure that all content available on the service meets a basic level of quality and taste. While some will view these restrictions as censorship, the fact of the matter is that the company is very up front about its expectations for developers signing up to sell apps on its storefront.
What’s more, there are other options out there for developers who absolutely, positively need to release an app starring Pepe the Frog — the Google Play Store is much more lax, and has plenty of content featuring the character. It’s worth noting that Apple has enforced a full ban on Pepe, who doesn’t appear in any apps, or iMessage sticker packs themed around memes.
Spirit Realm Games plans to re-release the game with a different character as its protagonist, but it remains to be seen if it will be approved by Apple.