Sex and the App Store

All this talk recently about the lack of nudity/skin in the App store got me thinking. After all the dust has settled, what apps are left in the App store that are racy? Is there anything that would disturb me as a parent? I decided to do some research and look around to see what I could find, and it didn’t take me long to stumble upon the problem.

I opened up the App Store on my iPhone and went to “Top 25 Free,” where holding the No. 2 spot was “Sex Positions Game.” A 2 star rating doesn’t scream “Top 25″ to me, but maybe people figured it would have a boob in it or something. Then I started reading the reviews, including one of them which is posted above.

That rating above is spam. It’s a horrible way to get people to download an app or check out a website, put in a place where people go to find out if an App is worth downloading. This is also the first time I’ve seen a review that’s referenced porn – which I obviously blurred out – and hardcore porn at that. Never  have I seen spam like that downloading Evernote or Pac-Man, just with this sexual app.

And it’s not jut that app either. I looked at some other borderline tasteless apps, and sure enough, more review spam pushing porn. The people doing the reviews have figured out that if you’re looking for porn on the iPhone, then you’ll probably check out other porn sites as well. It makes sense from their perspective, and I’m sure it’s working out for them just fine.

But what if you were a 10-year-old kid looking for a free game to download on your iPod Touch while you’re at a doctor’s office? Maybe you’re a little curious and decide to check out this web app on Safari, just to see what it’s like? If I’m that parent, I don’t want my kid to check out some hardcore girl-on-girl action at 10, no matter how accessible it is. And if they do find something like that through the iPod Touch or iPhone, well then I may just give up that platform entirely to stop the problem. Which means I also wouldn’t buy the iPad for the same reason.

That’s ultimately the issue here. I, as a married guy who likes women, have no problem with seeing porn. But I’m not the only person who uses an iPhone or iPod Touch. There are teachers, doctors, preachers, construction workers, programmers and everybody in between. They may not want to see what I want to see, and that’s their right.

The answer here is adding a filter. Whether it’s restricting the iPhone or iPod Touch in question with parental controls or putting limits on the iTunes account, something needs to be done to keep the bad stuff in the hands of those who want it, and to lock the others out. Yes, an Explicit category would help, but if it’s still available to everyone with no restrictions, then it doesn’t make any difference.

Now, you could make the argument that this type of software is just as prevalent on your desktop computer, and you’d be right. The difference is that it’s not as easy to find. If I want to find a program that shows me women in various states of undress, all I have to do is Google it. Then I can download the program or pay for it, then install it on the Mac. If I’ve got an iPhone, it’s often presented to me. I have to think about what I want if I want it on my computer, but the decision becomes clearer when it’s right there in the Top 25 on the App Store. It’s the difference between making a conscious decision to do something versus being shown it. I would never know that pears were green unless I saw one, and I wouldn’t know that hardcore porn existed until it was shown to me.

The same argument has been made about Safari, but it goes back to the same point. If you want to seek out porn, you can find it anywhere – but that doesn’t mean that it needs to be stupidly accessible. Once again, if you don’t know what something is, there’s no way to look for it. So yes, Safari is one way that kids can find porn on the iPhone, but only if they know what they’re looking for.

Whether you agree with it or not, I think that keeping the smut out of the App Store is a good thing. Until Apple comes up with a proper filtering system, this is the way it’s going to be so that the largest amount of people are happy with the product. In the meantime, if you want porn on your phone, look it up on the web. That’s just the way it’s got to be.

Comments

  1. Dear God! Won’t somebody think of the children!?!

    That said, I somewhat agree with you. But I think Apple has fallen down on a few of these cases.

    One problem is that the naughty apps were beginning to leak outside of where they belonged. You started seeing them in “Productivity” and “Utilities.” I’m sorry, but a pretty girl in a bikini cleaning my screen is not a “Utility.” Entertainment? Sure. But, then, the developer was the one who claimed this was a “Utility.” Where were the people at Apple saying, “Uh, no, it isn’t” and bouncing it back?

    Second, if these posts exist, isn’t it up to Apple to police them? After all, it’s their store–at least, that’s what the fanbois say. Removing an App because someone posted a link to a porn website in the comments is a bit extreme. Will Apple take down my App–which has nothing to do with pornography but is extremely popular–because someone unknown to me said, “Hey, check out pornsite.com!” in the comments?

    Don’t get me wrong, the people who do this are jerks. No doubt. But this is something that Apple needs to deal with–not the developers.

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