January 28, 2013
Twitter’s new video-sharing app, Vine, isn’t even a week old. Still, it is already making a lot of folks sweat. The reason for this has nothing to do with the free app’s innovative editing functions, or social sharing options. No, Vine's early claim to fame is largely due to the #sex and #porn videos being posted within the app. The fact that this app remains in the App Store, in my opinion, is a good thing. In fact, it could prove that Apple is finally rethinking their iOS app guidelines, which have often promoted censorship, which is never a good thing. Let me explain, because I’m not advocating that Apple should start hanging a flashing neon light in the App Store. Rather, in allowing Vine (and other apps) to exist here, Apple could be signaling that they are slowly shedding their somewhat puritan (and selective) attitude towards sex and nudity on mobile devices. For those that don’t already know, Vine allows users to create and post six second video clips. Not surprisingly, many of Vine’s earliest users are using the service to post videos that some may find offensive. Twitter, who refuses to pull the app, has said the following about this development:
Users can report videos as inappropriate within the product if they believe the content to be sensitive or inappropriate (e.g. nudity, violence, or medical procedures). Videos that have been reported as inappropriate have a warning message that a viewer must click through before viewing the video. Uploaded videos that are reported and determined to violate our guidelines will be removed from the site, and the user that posted the video may be terminated.While Vine remains in the App Store, 500px does not. It was just last week that Apple pulled the photo-sharing app after it was discovered that many were using it to display “pornographic images and material.” However, subsequent reporting indicated that the app wasn’t pulled because of general pornography. Rather, Apple pulled the long-running app because some users were posting child porn, which, of course, is illegal. Both these moves -- keeping Vine, but pulling 500px, are good. My opinion is that Apple should stop censoring app content, especially when that content is readily available through mobile Web apps such as Safari, and Chrome. In other words, allow users to make the choice whether inappropriate (yet legal) content is allowable on their handsets. In a sense, Vine is no different than Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, or even the HBO Go app. Each offers video content that could be considered objectionable to some users. No one is telling Apple to remove these apps from the App Store anymore than cable companies are being asked to remove HBO from their channel lineups. My advice: Apple should scrap their iOS guidelines, and let the market decide whether apps such as Vine should remain. Instead of censoring content on a one-size-fits all basis, Apple would be wiser to require developers to safeguard content from wondering eyes. This way, children would be protected, while adults would have a choice of what content to view. Otherwise, Vine will simply be the latest in a long line of apps that Apple must decide should stay or go. That, in conclusion, isn't a job Apple should be tasked to do.