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Arrow Question / Issue:

"I am constantly reading about those with conservative views being victims of big tech tyranny & censorship. Have you also been affected by this?"

 

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In our dealings with big tech 'giants' we have, IMHO, experienced a number of injustices, like those below...

--- APPLE ---

As we stated on a recent page explaining why we left Apple's App Store after nine years (click here)...

"...we feel that Apple tends to abuse their monopoly power. In our case, we believe that they have been unfair, unreasonable, excessively demanding, not accountable, controlling/dictatorial, etc. We have concerns about their 'planned obsolescence' policies, their 'poor & disparate' treatment of developers, their 'apparent unwillingness to communicate in good faith', and various other concerns."

Notice that the page mentioned above provides proof that Apple treated us differently than other developers and covers the fact that our first app, Catholic Bible References, was initially rejected by Apple because they had issues with bible quotes on morality (as we recall, they specifically took issue with Bible references that condemn homosexuality). In the rejection notice for this scripture-based app, Apple stated...

"We've completed the review of your app, but cannot post this version to the App Store because it did not comply with the App Store Review Guidelines, as detailed below:

14.1: Any app that is defamatory, offensive, mean-spirited, or likely to place the targeted individual or group in harms way will be rejected"

Is not their rejection itself offensive to those who love the bible? Note that the app specifically stated the following at the bottom of the screen which displayed each bible quote (with NO scrolling required to view)...

"Do not inflict or wish harm on yourself or others..."

...and the Scripture passage that references the ancient penalty for homosexuality clearly stated that the penalty is not applicable under the New Law and stated...

"Do not inflict or wish harm on homosexuals. Rather, pray they receive the grace to lead a chaste life."

Also, Apple pulled both of our perfectly functioning crucifix apps less than 20 days before Lent started the other year for the 'crime' of not being updated (even though the crucifix apps did NOT need any updating, and even though Apple did NOT pull others' still older apps) – and this was despite the fact that there was nothing comparable to these beautiful crucifix apps in the entire App Store.

For more information – including photographic proof that Apple treated us differently than other developers – please visit here. [Note: Scroll down above linked page to view images.]

--- G O O G L E ---

We have likewise experienced issues with the major search engine whose name rhymes with Froogle. Over the years, we have both advertised with them and sold apps through their A ndroid app store. We are also indexed 'for free' in their massive search engine.

As for our search rankings, we don't think they are where they should be given the quality of content on our site, but we are not able to (and don't want to) jump through the highly burdensome & constantly changing hoops required by the search giant. We do suspect (but can't prove) that if our site had offensive/non-Catholic content instead of traditional Catholic content, the site would do much better in their rankings.

As for advertising with them, they have little-by-little 'blocked' a number of our ads for ridiculous reasons (e.g. finding issues with our perfectly acceptable punctuation in ads years after the ads had already been approved & were running). In some cases, we found ourselves unable to correct the 'issues' (e.g. due to technical difficulties on their site that I recall they were not able to assist with without invading our privacy, or due to circular answers from them – such as referring us back to the same form that we reported to them as not working properly).

Over the last few years, we have also not done well with apps in their store. We noticed that at least one of our Catholic apps that sold regularly in the past pretty much stopped selling. Previously, it was typical to sell at least some apps through their store each month, and more during Lent. Recently, we only sold roughly a dozen apps in an entire year through their store. At one point we tried searching for our apps directly in their store and found that our apps did NOT come up in any general searches. As we indicated in a message to them...

"For example, we have a Stations of the Cross app (iStations for Android). It did not come up at all when searching for 'Stations of the Cross'. The G oogle P lay search results, however did include a lot of apps that were NOT Stations of the Cross apps (including history apps, hymn books, bible-related apps, saint apps, radio apps, etc.). In the results, we found apps that have fewer installs than ours (iStations has 500+, other apps in listings had 10+, 100+). Also included in the results were apps that had fewer & worse ratings than ours (iStations has 14 reviews, averaging 4.7 stars, others had no reviews or only one review and 4 or fewer stars)."

Also, we mentioned the following in a communication to them... (emphasis added)

"As we mentioned before, our apps are not coming up in G oogle P lay search results even though our apps are more relevant, more highly rated, and have more installs and higher reviews than various other apps that come up. This seems very unfair. As we recapped previously...

* Actual search on G oogle P lay return apps that are LESS relevant than ours, but NOT ours.

* Actual search on G oogle P lay return apps that have FEWER installs than ours, but NOT ours.

* Actual search on G oogle P lay return apps that have FEWER ratings than ours, but NOT ours.

* Actual search on G oogle P lay return apps that have FEWER stars than ours, but NOT ours."

Although the above clearly seems unfair (perhaps 'shadow banning'?), they claimed that they looked into the matter and stated that nothing was wrong. We asked them to have another look, indicating that...

"We know you consider this matter resolved, but we cannot agree. For example, our iStations app - which typically has 'seasonal' sales that spike in Lent, has only sold one single copy on G oogle P lay since Lent started (specifically, one sale on <date/snip>). During the identical time frame, the same app has been #1 in its category on A mazon's App store multiple times (in fact, it is #1 as of our writing - see image that was attached). Likewise, the iOS version has been on the Apple charts numerous times since Lent began in late February (see image that was attached, ranked #7). Yet, only one single sale on G oogle P lay."

We stated that...

"We are certain (and the sales on A mazon & Apple seem to prove), that the lack of sales on G oogle P lay right now is NOT because people don't want to buy our app but because G oogle P lay is functioning as a 'gatekeeper' preventing people from even seeing the app."

And...

"Again, regardless of any reasons you may put forward, our app does NOT appear on G oogle P lay for relevant keywords (e.g. 'Stations of the Cross'), but other apps that are LESS relevant, LESS highly rated, with fewer installs and ratings than ours DO show. No reason provided (or even imaginable) makes any sense of these facts."

And we stated that ...

"We think the above mentioned app (iStations - a Stations of the Cross app) especially is an app that right now that could spiritually benefit people in this time of crisis [early in the Covid pandemic], but it is practically never displayed on G oogle (even with relevant terms), even though other apps less relevant and with fewer installs and lower ratings than ours display."

Our efforts ultimately made no difference and our apps at the time of this writing still 'hardly ever' sell anymore in their store.

Likewise, we experienced issues with them over a speed dial app. They informed us that they would be pulling our perfectly functioning app (that does not violate privacy for no valid reason and with no reasonable explanation). In summary, they decided that a speed dial app would no longer be allowed to dial – its whole reason for existence. They indicated we could request an exception, which we did. The request was denied. We appealed the decision and noted that...

"There is a problem here! A speed dial app OBVIOUSLY has to be able to dial phone numbers. How else could it work? Please correct things on your end as there is nothing wrong with the app."

Our appeal was denied. In our communications we asked...

"And now, again, how specifically can a speed dial app work without the (obviously necessary) permissions?"

In their response, they indicated that...

"As much as I'd like to help, I'm not able to provide any more information or a better answer to your question."

So there you have it – a speed dial app pulled for the 'crime' of dialing.

--- A M A Z O N ---

We have also experienced issues with A mazon. First there is the problem with their 'funny math' lowering ratings of our books on a 'consistent' basis (see here for more detail regarding this unfortunate issue).

There is also the fact that a number of our books are presently being 'held hostage' by them because even AFTER approving our books and selling them for years, A mazon no longer likes the authors of a number of our titles and is now claiming that they violate their guidelines. As we stated in a message to A mazon...

"But let's be clear: Our books did NOT violate your guidelines when they were submitted. Our books did NOT violate your guidelines when A mazon APPROVED the books. YOU have since changed your rules and retroactively applied them to ALREADY approved and published books. How is that fair? (And frankly, I'm not sure exactly what rules they 'violate' since the only guideline I see on your site for the author field is: 'Enter the name of your book's primary contributor here. You are free to use a pen name, as long as it does not impair customers' ability to make good buying decisions.' Our author names do NOT impair customer's ability to make good buying decisions - quite the contrary - so what exactly is the issue?)"

Due to this 'hostage situation', we are no longer able to do any of the following to affected books...

* change prices (including running sales)

* change descriptions (including correcting any typos that may appear)

* provide updates to existing publications (including corrections)

* provide a new textual reference to other versions (e.g. mentioning a large print version of an existing title)

* change keywords

To make things worse, we were recently notified that due to high costs in a certain country (Australia), we would need to change the price of our books there, while A mazon simultaneously refuses to allow us to change the prices. Yet, THEY will change the prices to cover ONLY their costs. So, for example, if we were initially to charge $10 for a book, and receive $2.75 profit, while A mazon receives $7.25, their new cost increases could theoretically result in them upping the price in that country to, say, $15, with them receiving all $15, and us receiving $0. We have not been allowed to either pull books from that marketplace or increase the price to cover our profit. In such a case, A mazon would make the entire profit in that country and we would make nothing. All because they do not like author names on books they have ALREADY approved and have been selling for years. We have gone back and forth with them, but they will not budge, despite the fact that we had a 'contract' with them to receive a certain specified $ profit per sale. Not only that, but their communications with us have been extremely frustrating. For example, they try to blame the situation on a 'technical issue' but it is, in reality, a policy matter and not at all a technical matter. They also tend to avoid answering questions. As we once stated after a long sequence of communications...

"A mazon seems to be 'playing dumb', and 'never' answers the questions, despite repeated efforts on our part to receive actual answers. It seems very intentional on A mazon's part to avoid providing us with direct answers."

Note that we had asked them to answer important/relevant questions such as...

"* How can it be that you can change the price of our books on your end so that A mazon would receive every cent of the profit and we would receive $0 (NOTHING!) [if you 'convert it so it is equal to either the minimum or maximum list price for Australia'] - but yet you won't convert the price so that the contractually agreed upon amount of profit for us would also be covered?

* How can it be that you say we can 'Republish the same book with the same interior and Cover file through your KDP account' when we have shown that it is NOT possible to use either the same cover or the same manuscript with the author change you are trying to force upon us?

* How can A mazon have the right to dictate who the author is for ALREADY approved & published books? Books that have been live for years? Books that actually have the CORRECT authors?

* How can it be fair for A mazon to RETROACTIVELY apply policy changes to ALREADY APPROVED & PUBLISHED BOOKS and force on us significant burdens without our consent? For example, consider the huge amount of resources (both with respect to our time/man hours & financial costs) to generate new manuscripts & new covers, replace the TRUE author with some other author, use new ISBNs, update all the links on our websites, redo all our ads, make our marketing materials worthless, etc. [Plus we would lose all ratings/sales history for the old ISBNs.] How can A mazon have the right to do this? A mazon may have 'unlimited resources', but authors most certainly do NOT have such resources. We sell on A mazon to make a profit, not to lose money!"

Over the years, A mazon has also made other changes which negatively affect us. For example, they have disabled the opportunity to comment on reviews. When we subsequently received a false review on one of our books and were not able to comment on it, we asked them...

"Someone has left a review of one of our books which contains falsehoods. We want to reply to it, but don't see how to do this. We have done it in the past, but don't see any option at present. How can we reply to the dishonest review?"

For which they replied...

"While reviews and feedback are important to our customers and selling partners, the comments feature on customer reviews was rarely used.

As a result, we are retiring this feature. You can address a customer concern directly via Buyer-Seller Messaging [which, btw, is NOT possible]."

In our response, we asked some questions...

"1) Wouldn't it make more sense to keep the comment feature and actually make it so people could see it instead of removing it because it was 'rarely used'? The feature should NOT be retired, but better implemented (it was poorly implemented, that is the real problem!). If A mazon had not practically hidden the feature, don't you think it would have been a lot more used?

2) So if you are removing the comment feature, what recourse does a publisher have when reviews contain falsehoods? And please don't say we can 'report it'. From past experience, reporting it to you will NOT result in removal of the review, so again what recourse does a publisher have when a reviewer posts lies on your site? The customer can say anything they want and the publisher can offer no rebuttal to total falsehoods? On what planet is that fair? How would you like it if someone publicly lied about you and A mazon wouldn't remove it or even let you respond to it?

3) You say we can address a customer concern directly via Buyer-Seller Messaging, but when we try it says no account for buyer seller messaging (remember it's a book). So how would that work if we are not considered the seller?"

But of course we did not receive direct answers from A mazon. So apparently customers can lie, slander, or make serious errors of fact and there is no way for authors to defend themselves. Doesn't seem terribly fair, does it? Likewise with allowing 1-star reviews on books that match their descriptions perfectly without requiring the customer to mention the reason for the negative review.

In the past, we have also noted errors concerning their reporting. At one point an error concerning missing app sales was admitted and corrected by them, but we have recently seen other issues with other items as well [e.g. commissions/royalties not matching agreed upon amounts – sometimes for just a penny, but in at least one recent case the discrepancy was over $3 (and the differences are seemingly never in our favor)].

--- OTHER ---

As we do not have a public Facebook or Twitter account, and have only limited YouTube uploads which may not contain 'controversial content' (e.g. coloring examples, app demos), we haven't directly experienced issues on these platforms.

-------

In closing, we have definitely experienced a number of injustices in our dealings with big tech giants over the years. But have we been directly affected by or targeted due to anti-Catholic bias or for ideological reasons? Unfortunately, we can't answer this question at this time with absolute certainty, even if we have our suspicions. Regardless, we sometimes can't help but feel there are some negative repercussions because we are a tradition-minded Catholic site, but it is difficult for us to acquire definitive proof directly implicating some massive, powerful entity. But we also do not doubt that others can/do experience their own set of unfortunate/unfair issues under the heavy arms of the big tech giants, some of which we suspect may be ideologically driven.


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