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Apple bans nonofficial coronavirus apps from its App Store

Apple is forbidding the release of entertainment or gaming apps related to the global outbreak of coronavirus, officially called COVID-19, from its App Store. The company will allow official health-related apps such as those from governments and NGOs which give information about coronavirus, but it is restricting other apps that could spread misinformation or make light of the situation, or use it as an opportunity for profit.

In order to make sure that only trustworthy, useful corona-related apps are available in the App Store, Apple announced it will be “evaluating apps critically to ensure data sources are reputable and that developers presenting these apps are from recognized entities such as government organizations, health-focused NGOs, companies deeply credentialed in health issues, and medical or educational institutions,” as the company detailed in a developer blog post. “Only developers from one of these recognized entities should submit an app related to COVID-19. Entertainment or game apps with COVID-19 as their theme will not be allowed.”

To expedite the publishing of time-sensitive health apps, Apple is encouraging developers to designate their apps as a “Time-Sensitive Event” on the expedite request form so that they can be reviewed and posted on the App Store more quickly. The company also says that nonprofit organizations including educational institutions and government entities from selected countries can have their membership fee for the Apple Developer Program waived if they plan to only submit free apps for distribution.

This follows actions by other tech giants in response to the coronavirus outbreak, such as Google encouraging business owners to update their operational status on Google Maps and its plans to create a tool for healthcare workers to triage suspected coronavirus patients.

The spread of misinformation about the virus is also being tackled by Facebook and Twitter, which have increased their fact-checking efforts to try to limit the amount of wrong and potentially harmful information on their platforms. When you search for queries related to the outbreak on platforms like Facebook, Google, Twitter, and Instagram, you’ll see promoted links from official health organizations. However, this hasn’t stopped conspiracy theories and incorrect medical information being spread widely across the internet.

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