I'm wondering just how long it will take to cast Apple's [AAPL] move against potential child pornography as a bad thing -- it's clearly a very good thing, and a move yet to be emulated by Android developer and arch-enemy, Google.
Fighting back against child pornography
Apple says it has removed a photography app called 500px from distribution via the App Store because of its receipt of customer complaints regarding "possible child pornography".
These are only allegations at this time and the app has been downloaded nearly a million times. However, the app developers claim they've never allowed pornographic images, saying that where such images are spotted they are immediately deleted. There are nude images on the service, but these are defined as "fine art", rather than pornography.
An Apple statement said: "The app was removed from the App Store for featuring pornographic images and material, a clear violation of our guidelines.
"We also received customer complaints about possible child pornography.
"We've asked the developer to put safeguards in place to prevent pornographic images and material in their app."
Love it or loathe it, Apple is at least being consistent. The company has always stuck with its conviction that it should not permit pornographic or near pornographic apps on its iOS platform.
Want adult? Get Android
In April 2010, Steve Jobs said:
"We do believe we have a moral responsibility to keep porn off the iPhone.”
Fair enough, but many in the alternate-to-Apple universe may want to consider what else he said:
“Folks who want porn can buy an Android phone."
This is certainly the case in the current predicament. Google's Android app store continues to offer the Canadian developer's maligned app. Google has refused to comment on this, but has pointed various media to its commitment not to permit apps which encourage racism or hate crime on its loosely-policed system.
The smartphone republics are extensive these days. Children own smartphones, so parents in the market to get their young progeny a connected device may consider Apple's insistence against adult images when making their buying decisions.
When launching iOS 4.0, Jobs made another point about his company's moral stance.
"You know, there’s a porn store for Android. You can download nothing but porn. You can download porn, your kids can download porn. That’s a place we don’t want to go -- so we’re not going to go there."
Who watches the watchmen?
Is this the end of days for the app via the App Store? No. Apple will put the app back onto its store in future, but has asked the developer to: "Put safeguards in place to prevent pornographic images and material in their app.” The developer has agreed to do so.
Apple's adoption of a custodial role over the content it offers via its App Store doesn't always run smoothly. Many may recall the fracas when it pulled an app offering up political satire by Mark Fiore.
Ultimately it comes down to your decision: are you happy that a large company chooses to act as your moral policeman, or do you prefer the freedom to choose?
Given that younger users seem to possess an uncanny knack for getting past password controls, it seems at this state of the child protection game, it seems likely security considerations will drive most parents to adopt the platform which seemingly most cares about the moral protection of their progeny.
In future, as more secure methods of protecting what you can access on your smartphone emerge (fingerprint recognition, retina scans, etc) it's conceivable you'll be able to forbid your children from accessing such material. However, some may regard this as of little consequence, as, for the most part, such material is available via your Web browser.
Though when it comes to trying to protect minors from coming across such content, or, more importantly, attempting to put a series of gates in place with which to protect children from becoming subject to those who perversely wish to create such material, Apple is at least consistent. Google? Less so.
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