Apple censors Lawrence Lessig's discussion of iOS 7 Wi-Fi problems

Creative Commons founder, whose comments in Apple's official support forums were squashed, is not taking it lying down

Just when you thought Apple couldn't get more censorious or heavy-handed, it surprises you and takes things to a whole new level.

Creative Commons founder Lawrence Lessig found himself being thrown into Apple's memory hole this week when he tried to draw attention to a way in which some Apple users could regain Wi-Fi functionality in the wake of iOS 7's problems with same.

According to Violet Blue at ZDNet, some Apple users who upgraded to iOS 7 have been plagued with malfunctioning Wi-Fi, and since September have had their questions consistently ignored on Apple's official forums. Lessig was one of those bitten by this bug.

Lessig found that for U.K. users at least, one possible form of redress might be available in the form of returning the device under warranty laws in the United Kingdom. Almost immediately after posting that comment on Apple's forums, it vanished. Lessig reposted the comment, only to have it deleted once again -- and this time, Lessig received a warning from Apple that "these posts are not allowed on our forums."

Astounded, Lessig wrote about his experiences on his blog and expressed dismay at the way comments were being scrubbed from the forums for no defensible reason. "When did it become inappropriate to inform people about legally protected rights related to technical issues?" he declared. "Is talking about legal rights the new porn?"

Lessig also echoed a complaint others have made about Apple: The company remains frustratingly tight-lipped about most every issue raised. "Unlike really helpful companies which try to reward people who spend time making community boards the best source for technical support by engaging with posts, and at least acknowledging the problems," Lessig wrote, "Apple’s policy seems to be a 'never comment' policy. Which leads its users -- and again, people who are volunteering their time to help lower Apple’s customer support cost -- to express increasing exasperation at the unanswered problems."

Since his experience, other posts in the same vein also have been deleted, according to Lessig.

Apple's overzealous removal of threads isn't just limited to talking about unfixed bugs. In 2010, a negative Consumer Reports article about the iPhone 4 (because of its antenna problems) sparked a slew of threads on the Apple forums. Many were deleted, but a few survived. "We've heard so many reports about [Apple deleting discussion board threads on topics that are unflattering to Apple's products] that it seems safe to call this standard operating procedure for Apple's discussion boards," wrote T.J. Luoma on Tuaw.com at the time.

And even as far back as 2007, when Jack Schofield of the Guardian discussed the issue, he mentioned that thread removal had by then been a long-established tradition for the Apple forums.

"It's always possible that Apple is removing 'rants' that are not helping users solve their problems," Schofield wrote. "It's also possible that Apple is unusually touchy, given that its 'switch' advertising might mislead innocents into thinking that Mac users really don't have any problems."

Not everyone believes Apple is wholly out of line for deleting complaint-laden threads from its boards. "Since there's no freedom of speech on someone else's dime, that's the way it goes," wrote Rene Ritchie at iMore.com. But he was convinced the concern over the antenna issue was entirely warranted, and that there were better ways to deal with the problem.

The "Community etiquette" page for the Apple Support Communities states that posters should "post only technical support questions and answers, unless otherwise noted" and "Avoid speculation and rumors." But if a great many people are having the same problem, and can't help but bring it up when looking for an answer, that hardly seems like justification to throw a wet blanket over the whole issue.

This story, "Apple censors Lawrence Lessig's discussion of iOS 7 Wi-Fi problems," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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