Apple claimed 500px made explicit content too easy to find. PHOTO: Natalia Balcerzak

Apple reapproves Rye-made photo app

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By Tara Deschamps

An award winning photo-sharing app developed at Ryerson’s Digital Media Zone (DMZ) has returned to Apple Inc.’s App Store after it was pulled last week over alleged easy access to nude images and customer complaints about possible child pornography.

With over one million mobile downloads, 500px has long been touted as one of the DMZ’s biggest success stories.

The Ryerson-based startup was prominently featured during a visit Prince Charles made to the DMZ last summer.

500px ranked among Tech Vibes’ best apps of 2012, and the company’s blog was recognized in Time Magazine’s 25 best blogs of 2012.

Apple removed 500px from its store early last Tuesday, just 16 months after its initial launch.

An official statement from Apple read: “The app was removed from the App Store for featuring pornographic images and material, a clear violation of our guidelines. We also received customer complaints about possible child pornography.

We’ve asked the developer to put safeguards in place to prevent pornographic images and material in their app.” The app is now back in Apple’s good graces after the addition of a “report” option and a higher appropriate age rating.

500px co-founder and Chief Operating Officer Evgeny Tchebotarev told the tech blog Mashable that he was not happy about having to make the changes.

“[The rating] is not an accurate statement for our app and for new users, it could turn them off if they think the app has content it doesn’t have.” The old rating was 4+, or fit for all users. 500px suggested 12+, the same as Flickr, but Apple insisted the company bump up the rating to 17 and up.

Photo sharing applications, like 500px, are commonly used to share atistic nude pictures.

Tchebotarev insists that 500px has always used controls to limit explicit material.

500px features safety terms that prohibit certain content, and options for users to report inappropriate photos. Support employees regularly review uploaded user content.

The app is defaulted to a safe search mode that prevents nude photos from popping up.

To bypass this, a user needs to explicitly change the search options in the settings menu.

“We tag artistic nudity as ‘not safe for work,’ [so] our current terms of use obviously allow that,” said Tchebotarev.

He reminds his critics that other apps currently available from the App Store feature much more explicit content than 500px.

“When you compare our app to Flickr or Tumblr, you’ll find much more offensive content,” Tchebotarev said.

Despite the disagreement, he admits Apple is an essential partner for 500px and other mobile startups.

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