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Tag Archives: Censorship

Initial Thoughts on Apple’s Anti-Porn Crusade

So as some of you may have heard, Apple has banned certain apps from their App Store for having sexual content in it. This does not come as a big surprise given the stance Apple has been taking over controlling contents on their products. Apple would be anti-open source that we discussed last week in class. However, what is causing controversy and concern is that the line between what is allowed and what is banned is not clear.

According to Philip W. Schiller, head of worldwide product marketing at Apple, the ban was due to “an increasing number of apps containing very objectionable content….It came to the point where we were getting customer complaints from women who found the content getting too degrading and objectionable, as well as parents who were upset with what their kids were able to see.” Really, Schiller? I don’t question the fact that they may have gotten complaints from super-conservative or super-liberal activist groups (As I was writing this, I found it interesting that groups from both end of the spectrum could have made this move. Right-wing activists concerned with “family values” could have been involved, but also left-wing women’s right groups may have been involved. Is Apple making enemies with both ends of the politics?) However, what defines “very objectionable content”? Does Schiller really think we are that stupid to believe that Apple is banning apps for the good of mankind?

So the image on the left is a Sports Illustrated application which has not been banned, and the image on the right is an application from On the Go Girls which has been banned. The two apps from pictures look very similar to me. They both show women in bikinis, but what exactly separates the two? What is the difference? Nobody seems to be able to answer this. In fact, Playboy app has not been banned either. Jenna Wortham, the author of the New York Times article, asked Schiller about this very point, and I was utter amazed by his answer: ““The difference is this is a well-known company with previously published material available broadly in a well-accepted format.” So let me get this straight, Mr. Schiller. If you are a big company and a known commodity that show women in bikini you are okay, but if you are a smaller no name company who wants to show the same exact pictures you are no good? As many in the class know, I tend to be very business friendly and lean right on the political spectrum. But what Schiller says come across “evil” even to me. Does Apple want to make their App Store into a political and business power negotiating field? A way they can build diplomatic relationships and make business agreements to further their agendas? I cannot but associate this to the iPad development. Sports Illustrated was one of the few publications given access to and ability develop iPad ready magazines. If Apple had banned their Sports Illustrated Swimsuits Edition from their App Store, would they have been open to showcasing their development for iPad? I am not so sure. What is next? Are they going to start banning Victoria’s Secret apps because they show Miranda Kerr in lingerie? Let’s get real, that what Victoria’s Secret makes?

Some bloggers have been very kind to explore this topic on their own for quite a bit. Here are some Joel Jonson of Gizmodo found that has not been banned, but could perfectly be as offensive or even more offensive than girls in bikinis:

1) “An app that discusses abortion and birth control law”
2) “An app that helps you hook up with gay guys”
3) “An app that teaches you how to evangelize the fundamentalist Christian religion”

Understanding the real motive behind this app banning is extremely important, but I am afraid that this will go un-acknowledged by most. Why?

1) Because not everybody really cares too much about this issue. It doesn’t really change their day-to-day lives because not everybody feels the need to “sexy” apps. Yet, I find that on principle this should be addressed.
2) Because it’s Apple. Consumers and the media tend to get so enamored with Apple that they are willing to overlook and forgive Apple. It’s Apple. So, it must be so cool. So they must be right. They are the truth. Righteous!
3) Because smaller companies getting shafted here are not powerful enough to fight against Apple.

In my following travelogues, I will attempt to take a deeper look into Apple’s motive behind these app banning of “sexual” contents. It cannot be simply for profit, because these apps bring Apple money. What is Apple gaining by sacrificing definite revenue opportunity? Of course, my investigation will be mostly indirect inferences, but let’s hope we get more insight into this topic.