In the wake of a controversial decision to pull sexually themed applications from the iTunes store, Apple is toying with adding a new "explicit" category to its current offerings. While my inner feminist cheers, my inner technophile is concerned.
Never in a thousand years did I think I would be making this argument.
After all, I pretty much hate those waste of space applications. Obviously sexist (and sometimes sexist with a chaser of racism), most of these apps don't have any real benefit. Wobble, the poster child of the new restrictions, is an application that allows the user to animate the breasts on a still picture. And considering that Apple's ban was a direct reaction to consumeroutcry, I would be content to watch them all fade into obscurity.
Except ... reading the Washington Post's write up of the situation made the small ping of warning about Apple's less than scrupulous activities flare up into full blown alarm:
Apple said that despite the parental controls it put on its applications store last June, it continued to receive complaints from women, parents and software developers that hundreds of apps aimed at mature audiences were clogging the store or getting into the hands of children. [...]
The move was being closely watched in Washington, where confusion surrounds which regulatory agencies could set rules for makers of Internet applications, such as Apple, Google and Facebook.
The Federal Trade Commission has limited rule-making authority in this area, but the agency is seeking to expand that power with an eye on online privacy protections.
Uh-oh. There are already enough issues when looking at digital rights in the age of corporate consolidation - the recent brouhahas surrounding Google Books and ownership of materials on the Kindle are but two of the ongoing issues plaguing content in our new media environment. I don't really want to defend sexist apps, but they are downloaded by choice. Apple, as a private company, has the right to set standards for their store as they wish. And consumers also have the right to protest against content they find objectionable. But with government eyes now turned to the control of material on the internet, I wonder, who is next? If someone makes an app that collects all of Peaches' music videos, will that be banned as well? Considering that Sports Illustrated was allowed to keep the Swimsuit Edition app, will it just be indie content that bears the brunt of the new restrictions and what is backed by corporate dollars will be acceptable?
The creators of Wobble were just out for laughs. But the potential ending to this story isn't funny.
Apple Adds and Removes ‘Explicit' Category from App Store [Wired]
Fetish Goes High Tech: The "Cute Asian Girls" IPhone App [Racialicious]
Apple's purge of sexy apps comes amid confusion over Internet regulation [Washington Post]
Writers' groups lobby US Congress against Google books deal [Guardian]
Double Plus Ungoods: Amazon Unpublishes Orwell [TidBITS]
Related: Forbidden Apple: On The Death of iPhone Sex Apps [Gizmodo]