Five years ago, Josh Begley made an easy-to-use iPhone app, and all it does is send users a push notification when U.S. drone strikes are reported in the news — an effective method of keeping up with clandestine foreign policy.
The app was rejected by Apple three times for being “excessively objectionable or crude content,” according to Begley's article published in the Intercept.
While the app doesn't include any graphic images, or gruesome footage, Begley still decided to change its name from Drones+ to Metadata+.
Despite facing five rejections, Apple finally allowed the app to be available in 2014. It was downloaded by more than 50,000 people. However, by the following September, Apple "decided to delete the app entirely," according to Begley's article published in the Intercept. After a total of 12 attempts, the app was once again made available yesterday, but not for long.
The app is no longer available in the App Store, but it will continue to function for those who were able to download it already. For example, the app sent out a notification Wednesday that read, "At midnight, a U.S. drone fired missiles at a car, killing 4 people."
Drone strikes have become the most common way to carry out covert operations abroad, and their secrecy is what inspired Begley to create the app in the first place.
Begley writes for the Intercept:
As an artist who works with data, I think the story of this app is about more than a petty conflict with Apple. It is about what can be seen — or obscured — about the geography of our covert wars.
For the past 15 years, journalists on the ground in Yemen, Pakistan, and Somalia have worked hard to uncover the contours of U.S. drone attacks — in some cases at their own peril. Filmmakers, academics, and attorneys have done important work documenting their ghastly aftermath. Websites like The Intercept have published whistleblower exposés about how the covert drone program clicks together.
But buried in the details is a difficult truth: no one really knows who most of these missiles are killing.