Monday, January 11, 2010

Apple's censorship

John thought my first reaction would be to the claim that the adult industry was responsible for all consumer electronics advances in the last three decades. While that's certainly overstating it, the industry was, I believe, instrumental in getting internet capacity up and running. I'm pretty sure we would have gotten there anyway, but maybe a little later. That wasn't the interesting part to me, nor was the description of the wave of very expensive 3-D content that may save the adult industry for a few years.
My first reaction is actually related to market power. I'm kinda convinced that one of the reasons Google is entering phones is cuz they think they can blast away market power, and in so doing, increase mobile phone usage and the ads that go along with it. Everyone is better off except Apple and Verizon/AT&T/Sprint/T-Mobile.
Even if you don't support adult content, Apple exerting iron control over the app store to keep out adult content has a paternalistic, concerning edge to it. None of us should want American corporations controlling our access to information, any more than we should want the government controlling our access. Apple should not be the arbiter of what is appropriate and what is not; that should be up to each individual to decide. I understand the importance of limiting children's access to that kind of content, but to my knowledge, YouTube's registration mechanism is pretty effective in keeping out children. Shouldn't it be much easier with Apple? You have to register with iTunes for the App Store anyway, and you have to use a credit card that presumably makes it easy to verify your age. Why is it so hard to limit under-18s from accessing inappropriate material? This even has to apply to hate speech - I will never support hate speech directed against anybody - but suppressing access to information is not the American way, and information we don't like is a cost of that freedom, not a suppressible standalone. We should mark it as hate speech, we should disgrace it, we should marginalize it, but we can't suppress it. Apple's attempt to do that is un-democratic (small d).
I understand there are costs to net neutrality - it's willfully blind to argue otherwise - but on the whole, if you really did develop a great piece of hardware or a great network, you should be able to monetize it well in excess of your costs, and you shouldn't have to rely on isolation to do it. If development costs can't recoup costs except for under monopoly circumstances, I'd rather see government subsidy than monopoly, because there are fewer social costs.
I predict that eventually, the iPhone's consumer-friendly design (and I own one, and while I like it, I think it's highly overrated) will be outweighed by other phones (perhaps Google's) that offer better functionality and more content. Remember what happened to AOL?

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