Apple’s fear of porn strikes again. Following Tumblr’s massive, overreaching ban on adult content last year after the app was briefly removed from the App Store because of pedophiliac content, now Apple is affecting the searchability of webcomics on the Tapas app as well. According to Breaks co-creator Emma Vieceli, the comic has been hidden from search results on the app because Apple deemed it “overtly sexual.”
Vieceli took to Twitter on Sunday to call out the issue, noting that in four years of storytelling on Tapas, the comic has only verged into sexual content twice, and never explicitly. Further, Vieceli and Malin Rydén always mark those chapters as “Mature,” which follows the Tapas Content and Community Guidelines.
Tapas allows mature content featuring violence; strong, vulgar, or lewd language; or non-graphic sex and nudity, as long as it is behind our Mature (aka NSFW) content filter.
However, as Vieceli also notes in her thread, the problem isn’t with Tapas — it’s with Apple. It’s also with Smackjeeves (another webcomic host) and Patreon: on both platforms, Breaks is also unsearchable because of its content. It’s still possible to search for Breaks on the Tapas website, but limiting iOS users’ ability to find the comic through the app is detrimental to Vieceli and Rydén, who consciously seek to frame sexual content in the comic through a non-explicit lens.
This isn’t tapas at fault. They have to comply or lose their app platform. Creators finding another host doesn’t affect Apple though, it would affect tapas. I know it’s been an exhausting battle even up to this point for app-based publishers. Sadly, we all lose.
— Emma Vieceli 🦋 (@Emmavieceli) August 11, 2019
This isn’t the first time Apple has banned a comic from the App Store for sexual content; most notably, ComiXology had to hide Matt Fraction‘s and Chip Zdarsky‘s Sex Criminals from the app in 2013, although Apple left the book up in its own iBooks store. (That same year, ComiXology misinterpreted Apple’s policy and temporarily made Saga #12 unavailable for purchase via the app.) It’s worth noting that Sex Criminals is actually “overtly sexual,” but Breaks definitely is not. As Apple continues its targeted crackdown on any and all sexual content — particularly content that centers queer people and relationships — app hosts will continue to suffer, but so will creators whose work is hidden from potential audiences.
“To be clear on my stance: Mark it as mature? Sure! I get that. Make it 16+? Absolutely! I don’t mind that. ‘I’ would say that at a con too,” Vieceli remarked in her Twitter thread. “Make it so that no one can find it at all? …No.”
Content warnings exist for a reason. Unfortunately, internet users do have the ability to click past those and ingest content they perhaps shouldn’t see, but overall bans are not the answer. When creators are responsible about using the filters and warnings provided to them, there is no reason their content should be further censored.
Plus, given how easy it is to access pornography that violently degrades and demeans people of marginalized genders and queer folx… Cracking down on webcomics and art that feature healthy, queer relationships with consensual sex is more harmful than not. This kind of censorship leads to further dehumanization of queer people and contributes to fearmongering about gender and sexual identities that don’t fit into a cisheteronormative framework.
Cortland Hunt has made some dangerous mistakes. Now he’s waiting quietly for those mistakes to catch up with him. Ian Tanner coasts through life denying the spark of anger beneath his laid back exterior.
When school politics and personal lives become a battleground, the pair find that what they share may just be their only safe haven.
Bringing the world of LGBT young adult fiction into the realm of comic books, and collecting the first arc of the acclaimed weekly web series (2014-2016), Breaks is the story of two young men discovering who they were, who they are, and who they will become. It’s a love story…but a little broken.