There's an app for darn near everything on the
, err, iPhad these days—but not for porn. No one paid much attention to this until recently, but the recent frenzy over Apple's decision to block political cartoonist Mark Fiore from the App Store (since reversed) has shone a spotlight on other restricted content. The issue came to a head when Jobs opted, as he sometimes does, to answer an email from an Apple enthusiast who expressed reservations regarding the company's content restrictions. On April 15, Matthew Browning wrote Steve, identified himself as a user and recent convert, and then expressed the following:
I’m really starting to have a philosophical issue with your company. It appears that more and more Apple is determining for it’s consumers what content they should be able to receive. For instance, the blocking of Mark Fiore’s comic app (due to being political satire) or blocking of what Apple considers to be porn.
I’m all for keeping porn out of kids hands. But… that’s what parental controls are for...Apple’s role isn’t moral police – Apple’s role is to design and produce really cool gadgets that do what the consumer wants them to do.
Steve responded by reiterating that Fiore's work will soon be available from the App Store, then continued:
we do believe we have a moral responsibility to keep porn off the iPhone. Folks who want porn can buy and [sic] Android phone.
Short as it is, Steve's response is telling. He doesn't even try to use the "think of the children" rationale Browning offered, but instead opinions that it's Apple's "moral responsibility" to protect everyone from porn. This is a correction of Browning's mistaken impression. Apple, according to Jobs, is
the moral police, and the boys and girls at Android are very, very, naughty.
Google "Android Porn" and almost everything you'll see is of the, erm, fleshy variety. But we know he's fully functional—in multiple techniques.
Back when the iPad was announced, we wrote that the device's long-term success was partially contingent
on customers' accepting a very closed ecosystem on a device that had much more in common with a laptop. The company's recent decision to approve Opera Mini implied that it was sensitive to such concerns, but this latest from Steve sets the bar 10x higher. Steve doesn't like porn? That's fine. Apple doesn't want to sell or distribute questionable material according to its own internal standard? That's also fine—but it doesn't end there. Jobs' wording strongly implies that Apple isn't just a gatekeeper exercising due diligence or doing its best to ensure age-appropriant content is restricted, it's using the App Store to protect us from ourselves.
We're fairly certain that this is only pornographic if you live south of the Mason-Dixon line, huff paint on a regular basis, and consider your gun rack a member of the family.
Finally, we can't help pointing out Jobs' apparent hypocrisy regarding the morals of other companies. Last February, Jobs remarked
that Google's motto of 'Don't Be Evil,' was "a load of crap." Steve doesn't appear to have a problem imposing his own moral viewpoints on rational adults—at least not in some areas—which makes us wonder if "Don't Be Evil," is crap because Google neglected
to append "as Steve Jobs defines it" to the end of their slogan.
Anyone who wants porn on their Apple device can grab it off the Internet, but the actual availability of X-rated material isn't the point. For the past 10 years, buying an Apple product has meant subscribing to Jobs' vision for what that product should look like. To make an analogy, if Steve Jobs was an architect, he'd have a line of people wanting to buy his designs wrapped
around his office. Wanting to live in a house designed by Steve Jobs, however, is not the same thing as wanting to live in Steve Jobs' house. If the porn issue turns out to be unique, this will all blow over. If it isn't—if Jobs does view the App Store as having a moral responsibility to enforce any particular view—this is just the first bump in what will inevitably be a very rocky ride.