June 04, 2013

Google Glass Meets the Horrifying Internet Porn Shortage!

Brace yourself. If you're not sitting down, I urge you to do so. There's devastating news afoot.

The Internet is apparently running out of pornography.

I know this comes as a shock. OK, it's not quite as bad as running low on cute kitty photos and videos, but it's pretty darned close.

Now if you're like me, you may not have actually realized that the Net is in such a dire, porn-starved condition. After all, at first glance, it seems like any legal porn you might want to see (and considerable amounts you might prefer not to see) are easily and openly available from a vast number of Web venues.

But appearances can be deceiving. And judging from some of the wailing I've been hearing since Google announced that they will not approve porn-oriented apps for the Developer Preview of Google Glass, I can only assume that a devastating porn shortage snuck up on us while we were busily building animated meme GIFs.

The inevitable cries of censorship are already being heard. They're nonsense, of course. I'm about as strong a free speech advocate as you're likely to find, but censorship is the domain of governments, not other organizations or individuals. Just as your local supermarket isn't required to carry "Hustler" magazine, there's no legal requirement that any firm approve any particular sort of app. And so long as we're talking about legal content that is readily available from other venues, and we're not discussing ISPs trying to micromanage which sites their customers can access, the consternation seems misplaced.

Decisions to keep mainstream app stores reasonably family friendly just don't really upset me. Let's face it, they're not the only games in town -- sideloading and other similar widely known techniques generally allow for users to obtain content and apps from other sources if they choose to do so.

There's an important distinction here. Not wanting to be actively engaged in the distribution and marketing of porn-related apps and materials is utterly different than saying that you want to ban such items.

Pushing porn at people who don't want to see it is another matter. If you look at the terms of use for most firms' social networking or app environments, you'll typically find provisions that relate in one way or another to this area, yet porn still prospers. I know how to find it. You know how to find it.

But I think it's fair to say that most people don't want it slammed at them either. When I occasionally see unsolicited graphic sexual content in my Google+ notification stream, I usually report it much as I would any other kind of spam. I'm not condemning the porn per se, I'm saying that it is being inappropriately thrust upon me -- no pun intended.

When it comes to Google Glass in particular, Google's deliberate, arguably conservative, go-slow approach that some observers find frustrating is actually entirely appropriate. Glass represents the first real steps into the mass marketing of general purpose wearable computing devices, and as I've noted in The Coming War Against Personal Photography and Video, Glass is already being targeted from some quarters as a proxy for forces who would like to greatly restrict public photography in general. Adding porn into the mix at this incipient stage would provide yet another target for knee-jerk reactions, and risk diverting attention from an array of extremely positive and innovative applications for this technology.

The policy issues surrounding all this are inevitably going to be entangled with politics and politicians, and while I hesitate to say "Luddites" in this context, there is a definite impression that there are folks out there who would very much prefer that this whole area be dealt with through emotional haranguing rather than thoughtful and logical analysis.

In any case, fear not -- the Internet is a very big place. Your porn cup still runneth over if you wish, the porn desert is not upon us, your prurient interests need not cower for fear of starvation.

Rumors of the Internet Porn Apocalypse are unfounded.

And now that we've settled that, we can all get back to the important work of churning out the cat memes.



Posted by Lauren at June 4, 2013 01:18 PM | Permalink
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