Less than a week after its relaunch, controversial mobile app Famous has been pulled from Apple's App Store. The game, which lets people become other users' "biggest fans" by sending them hearts, reportedly violated a developer guideline forbidding apps that are "defamatory, offensive, mean-spirited, or likely to place the targeted individual or group in harm’s way." Creator Siqi Chen told TechCrunch that Apple took issue with the app assigning numerical values to people. Chen's startup, Hey Inc., released an Android version of Famous on Google's Play Store this week, and it appears to be the only mobile platform for which Famous will be available until Chen resolves the issue with Apple.
Famous started out last month as an app called Stolen, a similarly designed mobile game that attracted significant controversy because users could "purchase" people without their consent. Stolen used creepy language, describing acquiring someone's profile as "stealing" that person and the act of holding onto it as "owning" the person. After a barrage of criticism, Chen pulled the game and redesigned it with advice from game developer and activist Zoe Quinn, who reached out to Chen on Twitter to help him reorient Stolen into what became Famous.
Even after its redesign, Famous was still pulled from the App Store
The new version only allows you to become a "fan" of someone if that person has opted in to play, and the language about ownership has been replaced with language about fandom. "What if we made it about being a fan? A sense of competition over who’s the biggest fan," Chen told The Verge last week. "The game is explicitly positive. It’s not like, ‘Ha ha, you’re mine now.’"
Unfortunately for Chen, Apple appears to have taken issue with Famous' core concept. "We’re trying to figure out what that means because people aren’t really doing that in our product," Chen told TechCrunch. "People are sending fan love to people and making them more famous." Chen says his team is working on a web version of Famous while they consider the future of the iOS app.
Apple did not respond to a request for comment.