Rants In Our Pants

Commentary: Apple’s App Store Is Porn to Be Wild

Hot babes in bikinis are corrupting the youth of America, Apple says. Unless they’re from Playboy, Sports Illustrated, or Victorias Secret, that is. Confused? Welcome to our world.

By (@tynanwrites)

February 25, 2010

Apple’s seeing double again, and no, I’m not just talking about the Hooters iPhone app. The App Store mandarins have embarked a mission to protect the planet’s children from naughty iPhone applications — well, some of them, anyway.

This all started with iWobble, yet another pointless app whose claim to fame is it takes still images of presumably attractive women and make them unstill — causing them to jiggle in predictable spots when you shake the phone.

Apple decided iWobble is corrupting the youth of America, who would otherwise be unaware that certain body parts move in delightful ways, now that "Baywatch" is off the air. (David Hasselhoff, how we miss thee.)

According to Apple marketing jefe Phil Schiller, the app and others like it were removed due to "objectionable content." Per The New York Times:

“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,” Mr. Schiller said.

Among the other apps also banned: Sexy Scratch Off, a game that let you see women in their underwear, and Simply Beach, a UK store that does nothing but sell bikinis. (This app later got reinstated.)

Critics immediately pointed out that certain apps — like Playboy, Victoria’s Secret All Access, Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit 2010, and yes, the Hooters Calendar — escaped Apple’s tightly sphinctered censors, despite displaying in some cases even more flesh than those that got banned.

(For example: In the photo above, one lingerie babe was banned, one wasn’t. Can you guess which? The answer is below.)

Schiller’s response?

“The difference is [these are] well-known compan[ies] with previously published material available broadly in a well-accepted format.”

In other words, flesh-peddling apps are dirty dirty dirty, unless their publishers have a lot of money money money.

I imagine a committee of blue-haired old ladies and ex-librarians at Apple reviewing this stuff.

"Bikini shopping app? Begone you wanton beach stumpets! Oh, wait …. that’s actually much less salacious than the stuff we’re allowing. OK, it’s back again. Never mind."

Then there’s "Daisy Mae’s Alien Buffet," your typical alien-killing-spree app starring a cartoonish Jessica Simpson type (a la The Dukes of Hazzard) whose short shorts were apparently too short short for Apple’s liking. It got banned… and then quietly unbanned.

Meanwhile, TechCrunch’s MG Siegler points out that if he really wants to view porn on his iPhone, he can do it the old fashioned way — by searching for it on the InterWebs via his Safari browser. Damn, why didn’t we think of that?

Apple is now tying itself in knots figuring out what will and won’t warp the morals of Generation Web. Nipples? Definitely out. Cleavage? Maybe, depending on the source. Belly buttons are OK, unless they’re pierced. And so on. (There are even rumors Apple has decided to ban itself from the app store, but I don’t put much stock in them.)

Like beauty, what constitutes "adult content" is often in the eye of the beholder. One person’s porn is another persons’ copy of National Geographic. Aside from the obvious XXX flesh-on-flesh material, it’s all up for grabs (no pun intended).

Anointing yourself the arbiter of what is and isn’t morally acceptable is just begging for a world of pain. Which Apple is now in.

PC World’s Jeff Bertolucci argues that Apple’s "porn" purge makes business sense, because the Cupertino Crew really wants to sell iPads into school systems (hopefully before Apple installs Web cams in them).

But if the concern is really about whether kids can access this stuff, is it really that difficult to build age- and identity-verification mechanisms into the App Store? Can’t you just cordon off the risque content and make it hard for underage types to see it, let alone buy it? That seems like a more practical and more effective approach.

So I don’t think this is about kids. That’s a smokescreen. I think somebody high up at Apple — maybe the almighty Steve himself — has a problem with these apps. But not so big a problem that he/she/them is willing to send Playboy and Sports Illustrated scurrying off to Androidland. Morally acceptable? I think not.

Answer: The babe on the left is from Sexy Scratch Off (banned). The other is of course a Vicky Secrets supermodel (not banned). So, are we all clear on the rules?






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