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Apple Drops the Ball While Tech Giants Join Against COVID-19 Misinformation

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Tech giants including Microsoft, Facebook and Google have joined forces to combat coronavirus related fraud and misinformation on their platforms. Strangely missing from this list was Apple, who is not doing enough to combat fraud and misinformation on its platforms.

A joint statement was issued by Microsoft, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Reddit, Twitter, and YouTube today in which it was announced that the companies are working together to prevent the spread of misinformation on their platforms, and share critical updates in coordination with government health departments.

Google Launches COVID‑19 Website and Search Results Enhancements

Meanwhile, Apple is still unable to put a lid on search results abuse in the App Store. A quick scan of search results for these queries "COVID-19" and "coronavirus" show apps that include short video sharing apps, games, AR glasses try-on apps, and much more. It is certain that these apps have nothing to do with the pandemic.

How, and why, do these apps appear for these search results? The most likely reason is keyword stuffing. Of course, this goes against Apple's App Store review guidelines, but it seems to be flying under the radar. Here is what Apple's App Store Review Guidelines say about gaming search results:

Choose a unique app name, assign keywords that accurately describe your app, and don’t try to pack any of your metadata with trademarked terms, popular app names, or other irrelevant phrases just to game the system.

Apple may modify inappropriate keywords at any time or take other appropriate steps to prevent abuse.

This comes as a surprise as it was reported over 2 weeks ago that Apple has been rejecting coronavirus related apps from developers, unless the app is affiliated with a government healthcare agency or other reliable sources like World Healthcare Organization. The issue related to keyword spam for search result abuse was as prevalent back then as it is now, which shows that Apple has not done anything to prevent it. A quick solution would have been to simply disallow the words "COVID-19" and "coronavirus" to be used for keywords.

On the other hand, Google has simply disabled search results for these queries, which might also seem extreme as it makes the Play Store less helpful for people looking for health-related resources. It is still better than allowing developers to abuse the system and take advantage of a critical situation.

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