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Apple apologizes after mistakenly removing B.C. student’s Indigenous language app

Click to play video 'Indigenous student from Prince Rupert mistakenly accused of wrongdoing by Apple' Indigenous student from Prince Rupert mistakenly accused of wrongdoing by Apple
Consumer Matters comes to the aid of a first-year university student from Prince Rupert who found himself the target of serious accusations from Apple, after he developed an app to celebrate his indigenous culture. Anne Drewa reports – Feb 9, 2021

A free Indigenous language app developed by a first-year UBC student from Prince Rupert, B.C. is up and running again after Apple mistakenly accused the young developer of dishonest and fraudulent acts.

“One day I just got an email from Apple and it was all gone,” Brendan Eshom said. “All my hard work was gone that I had spent almost half a year on.”

Eshom is a member of the Gitga’at community of the Ts’msyen First Nation. In Grade 12, he launched a website and app to share his culture by promoting a word each day in the Sm’algyax language.

“It means the world to me,” he said. “Ever since my youth, I’ve heard my grandparents speak it around me and they’ve always encouraged me to learn.”

The Sm’algyax Word app was launched on both Google Play and the Apple App Store in July where it enjoyed early success, only to be unexpectedly removed weeks later.

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“It just vanished,” Eshom said. “At that point, it had about 600 downloads on the Apple App Store, which actually made me get to the education category top charts.”

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Eshom says he received an automated email from the tech giant telling him it was terminating his status as an Apple developer pursuant to the Apple Developer Agreement for dishonest and fraudulent acts related to that agreement.

“It’s definitely concerning when Apple is accusing you of committing fraud,” Eshom said.

He says he reached out to Apple multiple times for an explanation, but couldn’t get answers.

“It was definitely more discouraging to not even hear why they took it down in the first place,” he said.

Read more: B.C. woman shocked to receive counterfeit Amazon order

Eshom contacted Consumer Matters for help. Consumer Matters contacted Apple asking why the app had been removed and why Eshom’s status on Apple had been terminated.

In an email, Apple stated:

“Maintaining the integrity of the App Store is a responsibility we take seriously to ensure the safety of our customers, and give every developer a platform to share their brightest ideas with the world. Unfortunately, this developer’s app, which is a great example of how technology can be used to bridge cultural understanding, was mistakenly removed from the App Store.

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“We regret this error and apologize to Mr. Eshom for the inconvenience this caused him. We have since reinstated his developer account and app, and will continue our efforts to improve our processes to ensure this does not happen again.”

Apple says more than a half-million developer accounts were terminated for fraudulent activity last year, which resulted in their apps being removed from sale. But Apple says Eshom’s developer account was regrettably included with the removals.

Read more: Consumer Matters: The real cost of free apps

Eshom said his developer account has been reinstated and the Sm’algyax Word app is back up on Apple.

“I hope in the future I can continue to use innovative technology to share my  traditional knowledge, culture, and, obviously, my language.”