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Apple Removes Some Explicit Material from iPhone


Last week, the PTC urged readers of the Weekly Wrap to contact Apple and ask them to remove sexually explicit apps from their iTunes store – and many of you did. The action of PTC members, as well as those of other family organizations like Morality in Media and the American Family Association bore fruit. Within days, news outlets announced that Apple was removing nearly 5,000 apps from iTunes, specifically because such apps featured “overtly sexual content.”


Predictably, Apple’s action has been denounced as “censorship” by those who think that adult content ought to be available on cell phones, which can then be watched anywhere, no matter who is present. (Last year, the Washington Post reported on the increasingly common situation of being exposed to pornography in public.)


Other, more level-headed, criticisms have also been made of Apple’s action; but in each case, Apple’s choice of banning suggestive apps is still a logical and correct one.


Some have stated iTunes already makes available other provocative or overtly sexual content, such as podcasts, music videos, films, TV shows, and explicit songs. However, these must be purchased separately, and typically the iPhone user sees only a title – unlike explicit apps, which typically contain screen shots of graphic content along with detailed descriptions. "Regardless of parental control ratings, 17+ rated apps show up when casually browsing the app store…Unlike music and movies, these apps typically have icons, names and screenshots that border on obscene just by themselves. It's gotten so bad that it's actually not possible to allow a typical young child to browse the app store by themselves without them being assaulted by various softcore porn apps," wrote one commentator on a blog maintained for app users. 


Others note that Apple’s iPhone (along with similar "smartphones”) has an Internet browser built into it...meaning that far more extreme content than that available on iTunes’ apps is also freely available. But there is a difference between Apple freely choosing to associate itself and its brand name with explicit content by making these apps available through the Apple-owned iTunes store, and merely having a device that can access it. Such a situation is comparable to that of a public library; public computer terminals can also be used to access pornography via the Internet – but that does not mean that the library should also display copies of Penthouse and Hustler in its children’s section.  Indeed, the introduction of Apple’s iPad (a “tablet” screen, similar to Amazon’s Kindle, which can access book texts online) is imminent; and some industry insiders believe that Apple hopes to promote the device to families and schools. It is therefore reasonable for Apple to make the “App Store” family-friendly in advance of the iPad’s March release date.


Some developers have complained that their apps are being “banned” by Apple without sufficient cause, and that they are being “discriminated” against. However, many of the developers with such complaints are those who have made indecent apps to begin with. Again, this complaint is no more credible than that of a pornographic film producer complaining that, for example, NetFlix makes all kinds of OTHER movies available to the public – so why not his?


Indeed, most app developers should welcome Apple’s demonstration of responsibility. Not too long ago, almost a third of the apps in certain iTunes App Store categories had a sexual theme – with the result that many App Store customers found it difficult to discover apps that might have been far more useful to them…just as a flood of spam on e-mail can make it difficult to find messages one actually cares about.


A final complaint sometimes heard questions the very concept of Apple putting any limitations whatsoever on what can be viewed with their products. Some such complaints feel they have an absolute right to whatever content they want, whenever and wherever they want it…no matter that they are using proprietary technology and distribution systems provided by a privately-owned company. Others fear some sort of creeping fascism, a limitation on the freedoms of technology to expand and individuals to express themselves. Such fears, however, are ultimately unrealistic. After the release of the PTC’s study The New Tube, which recommended changes to the popular Internet site YouTube to make profane and explicit comments un-viewable by youngsters, YouTube made the alterations recommended. Yet YouTube clearly continues to be successful and popular, thus conclusively demonstrating that it is possible for media companies to be dynamic and responsible simultaneously.  


To read the PTC’s thanks to Apple, click here.


To learn more about this issue, click here.






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