Is Nothing Sacred? Porn Comes to the iPad

Apple CEO, Steve Jobs, generated headlines this weekend with his declaration that the iPad brings you "Freedom From Porn".

The big news?

It doesn't.

Adult website YouPorn today began rolling out its own iPad-ready service, offering a selection of its adult-only clips in the iPad-friendly HTML5 format. You can access this using any HTML5-compatible web browser on any device.

That's bad news for Adobe and Flash -- adult content being re-tooled to HTML5 inevitably cuts chunks at that firm's multimedia advantage -- but it is also bad news for Apple and its stance against porn.

This anti-porn crusade was recently revealed as part of a late night email exchange between blogger Ryan Tate and Apple CEO Steve Jobs.

Jobs outlined his vision of a porn-free future, "Freedom from programs that steal your private data. Freedom from programs that trash your battery. Freedom from porn. Yep, freedom. The times they are a changin', and some traditional PC folks feel like their world is slipping away. It is," he wrote.

But has Apple the right to decide what users experience beyond the user experience the company provides?

Censorship is an exercise in self-discipline. A society is usually at its strongest when individuals collectively decide what is and is not acceptable. This is called "consensus".

As fellow-blogger Mitch Wagner wrote this week, "I'm uncomfortable with multi-billion-dollar corporations setting themselves up as the arbiter of that which is fit or unfit to view."

Prohibition of any kind is ineffective. There's countless examples of this. As any kind of activity is driven underground, it also becomes harder to police.

On the iPad, the fact that adult content providers can't deliver their product as age-verified apps means they are moving to make it available online in HTML5. This makes it more accessible, not less.

I'm not saying easily available adult content online is a good thing. But it is already out there. Parents must take responsibility and actively take steps to prevent children accessing such material. This site may help achieve that.

These are heavy responsibilities.

It isn't just about sexual censorship. Apple has also seen instances in which its App Store team have censored political content. For example, political cartoonist, Mark Fiore, who saw his satirical iPhone cartoon app initially rejected by Apple's people.

Apple could easily create an age verification system. It just doesn't want to.

Some argue that as this is Apple's storefront the company has the right to choose what to sell.

Open to question is if that logic still applies in the event the company builds a dominant market position.

What is most remarkable about Apple's determination to apply a moral purpose via its store is its complete futility. Censorship doesn't work.

Enforced censorship disempowers a population from finding its own moral path -- some argue prohibition makes that which is prohibited more popular.

Surely Apple doesn't want to do that?

This story, "Is Nothing Sacred? Porn Comes to the iPad" was originally published by Computerworld.

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