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WTFriday: The Baby Shaker Fiasco

By now you probably know that this week Apple launched—and then pulled two days later—an iPhone app called The Baby Shaker. The point? When you're getting annoyed by a screaming kid at a restaurant, at the store, on the plane you can gaily shake your phone and get a cartoon kid to shut up. The real child may still be hysterical, but hey, at least you had some fun. As the mom of a 3-year-old, it literally turns my stomach to even have to write those words. Apple finally issued an apology yesterday and the app's developer posted something even lamer. What still remains a mystery is how the geniuses reviewing iPhone apps even thought for a millisecond that such a game could ever be ok. This was a program that promoted CHILD ABUSE. Perhaps they, like as many as 50% of adults, have no idea how dangerous shaking a baby actually is. Maybe if they'd known that 25% of victims die or that the most common perpetrator is a male in his mid-20s (huh, the same group who might be tempted to download such an app), they would have thought twice.

Look, I'm a long-time fan of Apple. I love my Mac and my iPod. But something like this is inexcusable. I'm in full support of the Sarah Jane Brain Foundation's open letter (below) and I hope you are, too.

For more information on shaken baby syndrome check out these resources:

Prevent Future Abuse

The National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome

The 5-Second Tragedy

April 23, 2009

Open Letter To the Board of Directors of Apple, Inc. and AT, Inc.;

Within the last 72 hours America has seen the soul of your organizations and something is very wrong. Your companies are reporting record earnings and yet you are showing no signs of corporate responsibility.

As you know by now, Apple released an iPhone application on Monday which simulated and encouraged the shaking and killing of babies called "BABY SHAKER". As the father of a 3-year-old daughter who was shaken when she was only 5 days old, breaking 3 ribs, both collarbones and causing a severe brain injury, I was shocked, appalled and angered! As the Founder of the Sarah Jane Brain Foundation, named after my daughter, with the mission to prevent pediatric acquired brain injury and to support the millions of children/young adults who suffer from the #1 leading cause of death and disability in the United States, the damage you have caused is immeasurable!

Apple displayed extreme recklessness in launching this application and the results were immediate and disturbing. Below are a few quotes from journalists and editors based on our press release yesterday who prove the seriousness of your actions. Go online and read the anonymous blog comments making fun of shaking a baby. The harm your organizations have caused in making light of harming and killing babies is enormous!

"I know! That baby shaker thing is so funny! We’ll mention your support in the review." - John Biggs, Editor-in-Chief, CrunchGear

"Uh, it’s a joke." - Ken Layne, Managing Editor,

"Learn to take a joke." - Richard Nalley, Senior Editor, ForbesLife

"I couldn’t disagree with you more. The Apple App store is like a bookstore. It needs to be open to all the most repulsive ideas or we will have a regime of censorship. The next thing you know some corporate executive will decide that it is not politic to allow an app that furthers an idea you care deeply about." - Saul Hansell, Technology Reporter, The New York Times

While we are glad public outcry forced Apple to pull the application, the cynical way it was pulled without any explanation, any apology or any plans to rectify the damage they have already caused can only lead me to one explanation: this was a purposeful public relations effort coinciding with their campaign to promote their 1 billionth application download during Child Abuse Awareness Month and Shaken Baby Prevention week! The question I ask of you as fiduciaries of both Apple and AT is

"How many babies is your 1 billionth application download worth?"

We have asked for a public apology from Steve Jobs and we would like one from Mr. Stephenson as well.

We would like a complete accounting as to who was responsible for the vetting and launching of this sick application.

We would like Apple and AT to develop a significant plan to reverse the damage they have caused.

Anything short of this will reinforce the belief this was a purposeful and cynical plan to reach a 1 billionth application download! As Directors of both of these companies you have a fiduciary and corporate responsibility and the authority to act immediately - we expect nothing less from you.

On behalf of the millions of families across this country who are dealing with a child who suffers from a pediatric acquired brain injury (PABI), we are demanding action.

If we do not receive an adequate response from Apple and AT by the time we begin our 15-city American PABI Tour on May 3rd ( to promote awareness and support families who are dealing with PABI) we will hold a demonstration in front of the Apple Store in all 15 cities.

Patrick B. Donohue, Esq.
Founder, The Sarah Jane Brain Foundation
181 Broadway - Suite 300
New York, NY 10007