Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Apple bans "sexy," reveals self to be old fuddy-duddy after all

Apple has recently started cracking down on sexxy aps in its app store, removing the apps without notice and banning new ones from being added.  These are apps that do such nefarious things as allow you to do a jigsaw puzzle with a picture of a woman in lingerie or make a woman's body parts "wobble" in a photograph.  Lordy, how shall we protect our children?  Oh, that's right, the iPhone also lets you do something else--access the internet.  Apple's spokesperson responded to the NYTimes saying:
“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."
I just don't see how the solution to that is to ban neat-o things that consenting adults can do with their phone.  What next, can I not even  turn it into a vibrator?  I'm sure there was some intermediate solution, such as creating a filter for people who wanted to see non-sexxy apps only, or a child safe mode (which, by the way, already exists, and could have been strengthened).  Apparently this has something to do with Apple trying to position the iPad (snicker) for use in the classroom, but let me once again point to the elephant in the room: the internet.  In order for these devices to be used in the classroom, teacher monitoring is going to be needed.  Banning wobble just won't get the job done.

Moreover, I think this just speaks to the capriciousness and hypocrisy with which Apple has guarded content available on the app store.  If there's too much "clutter," as Apple has claimed, then come up with a great filtering system that allows users to see the best content available.  Don't arbitrarily play bouncer and only let your friends in.  Tech Crunch has a nice takedown.
[Hat tip BB]


  1. Commenters, I leave it to you: Are apps like Wobble more offensive than Apple's paternalistic app-store policies? Is this tantamount to apple deciding which songs are Safe For Work enough for inclusion on iTunes, or am I (as usual) over-reacting?

  2. I actually commend Apple for their stance on this issue. I wish more companies would try to help people like they do.

    You mentioned the issue of the Internet. Personally, I don't think that the inability to come to a first-best solution (protecting their users from *all* unsavory content) should discourage them from attempting the second-best solution (that is, protecting their users from unsavory apps).

    And banning things that are harmful and unhealthy is not the same as "playing bouncer and letting only your friends in." Apple has created a really useful tool that has the potential to do a lot of good in the world, very much like the Internet. And, similar to the Internet, there are many people who would like to take that useful tool and apply it to the cause of propagating corruption, degeneration, and ignorance.

    Apple would like to prevent that from happening to their device, and so they set very clear and understandable guidelines about what is and is not permitted when using it. Just because you paid for an object, that does not mean you should be able to use that object for whatever you want. Owning a car does not give you the right to use that car to mow people down on the sidewalk. Owning a baseball bat does not give you the right to use that bat to knock off people's heads. The fact that it is possible to use cars and baseball bats for such things does not mean that the organizations in authority (in the case of cars, the government; in the case of iPhones, Apple) should not take measures in order to ensure that these objects are not misused.

    And frankly, if you really disapprove of their policies that much, you can simply choose not to buy their product.

  3. Hey White_Tree, let me clarify one thing: When I said "playing bouncer," I was referring to the fact that Apple says it is banning these apps because of their objectionable content, but still has a Sports Illustrated swimsuit app and a Playboy app. A spokesperson said they "considered the source" of the content. To me, that's just being hypocritical.
    I also am not sure looking at somewhat sexy images (most don't even veer into the territory of pornographic) is really comparable to mowing someone down with a car, since one has a victim and the other doesn't. I would say it's more comparable to a company deciding you can't start your car until you fasten your seatbelt, and I think there's plenty of debate on whether we think that's desirable.
    I think Apple should absolutely actively manage their content: there should be no child porn app or how to make an atom bomb app. Nonetheless, I think banning pictures of women in negligees (from only SOME developers) seems a little heavy handed. What do others think?

  4. Oh my! You're right. Sports Illustrated Swimsuits and Playboy should absolutely be blocked, too. Thank you for clarifying that.

    Shame on Apple for being hypocrites!


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