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China Should Hire Apple To Police Porn

The Chinese government has been having a rough month. The authorities there have been dialing back already limited Internet freedoms to discourage disruptive remembrance of the 20th anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown. In early June, authorities let slip that starting in July PCs shipped in China would have to include Web filtering software called Green Dam.
The Chinese government has been having a rough month. The authorities there have been dialing back already limited Internet freedoms to discourage disruptive remembrance of the 20th anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown. In early June, authorities let slip that starting in July PCs shipped in China would have to include Web filtering software called Green Dam.Then Iran erupted in protests over that country's disputed election. It was a reminder in China of how quickly the Internet and mobile communications technology can spread dissent.

Following revelations that Green Dam was insecure and possibly illegal, and amid a chorus of complaints from Chinese Internet users about government paternalism, Chinese authorities blamed Google. They accused the search giant of spreading inappropriate content and directed it to remove porn links from its search results.

The Chinese government would've done better to outsource its censorship to Apple.

Apple has learned how to impose restrictions with impunity. Its iPhones sell well despite (or perhaps because of) the company's tightly controlled technical ecosystem. It maintains a mostly untarnished image in the press despite its disdain for the press. It ferrets out internal leaks using tactics that would be the envy of most authoritarian regimes. And it bans iPhone applications, like the porn app Hottest Girls, without alienating its fans.

There's something sad about the fact that China's view of acceptable content so closely resembles Apple's. And this is not just a matter of pornography, about which there's justifiable disagreement.

A politically themed application was banned from Apple's app store because it might offend supporters of former President George W. Bush. The developer wrote to Steve Jobs and claims he received this explanation: "Even though my personal political leanings are Democratic, I think this app will be offensive to roughly half our customers. What's the point?"

The point is that adult citizens and customers should be treated like adults. They should have the freedom to make their own decisions about when content is appropriate and when it isn't, for themselves and for their children.