Saturday, February 20, 2010 - The Progress & Freedom Foundation Blog

Apple's App Store, Porn & "Censorship"

Oh my, here we go again with bogus accusations of "censorship" flying about a private company's efforts to self-regulate its own media platform. Yesterday over at Silicon Alley Insider, Nick Saint penned a piece on how, "Apple's War On Porn Is Just Getting Started." And then over at TechCrunch, Jason Kincaid wrote about "Why Apple's New Ban Against Sexy Apps Is Scary." That yielded a flurry of similarly-titled rants about Apple's supposedly totalitarian ways for taking away our new-found inalienable human right to unfettered porn and adult entertainment applications via our iPhones. To Mr. Saint, Mr. Kincaid, and the many others who apparently believe Apple is the reincarnation of Big Brother for self-regulating their own Apps Store, all I can say is: Grow up!

Here are a few things they need to consider:

  • What Apple decides to do with its application store, and what it chooses to provide in it, is Apple's own business--quite literally. Like a traditional bricks-and-mortar retailer, they can make policies about what types of content might be deemed too sensitive for the broad community of customers they serve. WalMart, for example, doesn't carry certain types of music in their stores. If customers don't like what those retailers are doing, there's always another place for them to take their business and find what they are looking for.

  • When it comes to the Apple controversy, we are generally talking about porn. Note to Mr. Saint and Mr. Kincaid and other whiners... there are plenty of other places to find porn on the Net! Seriously, have you looked?

  • A private company's decision to self-censor by not carrying something in their store is not even in the same universe as the sort of censorship we see government officials engage in, which blocks all content from all platforms. There is no escape from that sort of all-encompassing censorship.

  • Did I mention that there's plenty of porn on the Net? OK, just checking. (Really, there's lots.)

  • It's important to realize that if Apple did not take some steps to self-regulate it's App Store for the really nasty, envelop-pushing stuff, it would lead to enormous pressure from many parents and regulatory advocates for Congress to step in start regulating the Internet ecosystem. Better that Apple and other retailers choose to self-regulate than to have Congress and the nanny state start controlling online speech.

  • Finally, uh... why do you own an iPhone again? You don't have to, you know. I've been going round and round with Jonathan Zittrain and his disciples about this point over the past couple of years when they complain about Apple's heavy-handed control of the App Store or the iPhone itself. Sorry, but I have little sympathy in light of the fact that (a) Apple's App Store has over 100,000 apps in 20 different categories to choose from, so it's not like there's really any shortage of other stuff to choose from and, (b) there are many other non-Apple options on the market from which to choose if you don't like Apple's policies on porn apps. Get yourself a Android-based phone or something else. (Like Apple, Google bars the use of its apps store, the Android Market, for porn apps. But Google does allow users to install a separate apps store for adult apps, called MiKandi. MiKandi promises Blackberry and Windows Mobile marketplaces soon.)

  • (I can't resist...) Once more, all this whining is about porn! There's tons of it online! Go get your rocks off somewhere else besides the Apple Apps Store! Gheesh.

  • [P.S. Lest I need to prove my First Amendment credentials to repel the eventual attacks from those who might accuse me of being a prude, please read this and watch this.]

    posted by Adam Thierer @ 2:24 PM | Free Speech