(Credit: Apple, Inc.)

NBC News reported exclusively today that the Apple App Store has taken down QDrops, an app that sends news alerts related to QAnon, a person or group of people who claim to be documenting a secret cold war between the Trump administration and an alleged shadow government referred to as "the deep state." QAnon first found life on the 4Chan discussion forum, which in recent years has taken a hard turn toward fascist propaganda.

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Despite no one in the mainstream media ever having corroborated the claims made by QAnon, QDrops was the most popular app in the Entertainment section of the App Store in April, and it resurged briefly into the top 10 over the last couple weeks. QDrops cost 99 cents to use, and the App Store customarily takes a 30 percent cut of app revenue.

While the iOS app store has a reputation for much better curation than Android's Google Play Store, Apple CEO Tim Cook has also been criticizing Facebook for the latter's underwhelming approach to fighting off disinformation campaigns, and Apple News recently enhanced its anti-disinformation toolkit. So by permitting the QAnon app onto the App Store, and by taking a cut of its revenue, Apple is in an awkward position. The company removed QDrops over the weekend when NBC News inquired about this discrepancy.

There is an Android version of the app on the Google Play Store, which has been downloaded a few hundred times and lists 20 user reviews, and at least one copycat with a similar name. Both cost 99 cents and have not been removed. Unlike Tim Cook, Google's executives have been relatively quiet in public about disinformation in their news app or on the Google Play Store. Android users may have to apply their own rules about which apps and which companies they trust to tell them the truth about the world around them. One can't assume that being on an official app store is a seal of approval from Google or Apple.

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4chan, originally a imageboard and discussion forum dedicated to anime, has become the watering hole for increasingly political sub-groups, from Occupy Wall Street to anti-Scientology campaigns.

But with the rise of Donald Trump, the racist and sexist humor abundant on its website evolved a "Haha only serious" tone where the boundary between deliberately poor taste and outright political propaganda --usually of the neo-Nazi variety -- is difficult to distinguish. QAnon's messages began surfacing on 4Chan and have become a major subplot of the federal investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential election.

The takeaways

  1. App has removed the QDrops app from its App Store; this app tracks messages sent by QAnon, a person or group of people who claim to be documenting a secret cold war between the White House and an alleged shadow government referred to as "the deep state."
  2. There are similar apps for Android, but they have not been removed from the Google Play Store.

Also see

Tom is the senior editor covering Windows at Download.com.