This photo depicting Syrian rebels using an iPad to fire mortars might also show these Syrian rebels violating Apple's terms of service agreement. Or at least that's the suggestion of some on Twitter after seeing this curious clause in latest iOS's TOS: "users agree that you will not use the iOS Software for any purposes prohibited by United States law, including, without limitation, the development, design, manufacture or production of missiles, nuclear, chemical or biological weapons." It at least appears that the iPad has something to do with weaponry.
However, it is unclear exactly what the rebels are using the iPad for. The description from Reuters reads: "A member of the 'Ansar Dimachk' Brigade, part of the 'Asood Allah' Brigade which operates under the Free Syrian Army, uses an iPad during preparations to fire a homemade mortar at one of the battlefronts," which doesn't give too much clarification. Business Insider's Paul Szoldra, who has experience with mortars, suspects that the rebels are using an app to level the apparatus to improve aim.
That, however, does not necessarily mean the rebels violated Apple's TOS. Using a level app (pictured right) to more accurately deploy a weapon might not fall under "development, design, manufacture or production of missiles, nuclear, chemical or biological weapons." First, a mortar isn't exactly a missile, as it requires a manually operated tube. Second, the app isn't doing any of the "development, design, manufacture or production" of the weapons. The mortars exist and go off without the iPad.
Arguably, the weapons wouldn't deploy as accurately without the iPad, and therefore it's aiding their purpose. But, according to Szoldra, even with the iPad they don't have much in the way of aim. "They are simply dropping a round and praying," he said. Then again, more seemingly harmless things have been declared "weapons of mass destruction."
The heart of the clause, though, is where the rebels might get in trouble. It says "users agree that you will not use the iOS Software for any purposes prohibited by United States law." Shooting off weapons as part of a civil war probably is not legal in the U.S. On the other hand, the U.S. supports the Syrian rebels, and has committed to supplying them with small arms.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.