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Why the App Store’s tone-deaf gambling ads make me worry about Apple

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson | Getty Images)

Apple released iOS 16.1 and iPadOS 16.1 to the public last week, with a long list of new features, fixes, and high-priority zero-day security updates. The updates also included the latest version of SKAdNetwork, Apple’s ad services framework for the App Store, and putting advertisements outside of the “Search” tab, where they had been relegated previously. Other changes included new App Store rules that give Apple a cut of NFT sales and of purchases made to boost posts within social media apps.

Whatever the intended effects of these new ad-related updates were supposed to be, indications from Apple’s third-party app developers, bloggers, and users indicated the end result was a flood of irrelevant and obnoxious ads, quite often for crypto-related scams and gambling. This included quite a few instances where those ads were not just annoying but inappropriate—next to apps for kids’ games or apps for gambling addiction recovery.

We contacted Apple to see whether it has anything to share about its ad rollout, and the company told us (and other outlets) that it had “paused ads related to gambling and a few other categories on App Store product pages.” In the short term, the most egregious problem has been addressed, and in any case, “gambling apps advertised next to gambling addiction recovery apps” seemed like a result of unforeseen circumstances rather than something that Apple intended to happen.

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