Monday, May 17, 2010

Apple & Porn


The CEO of Apple Computers has been getting a lot of negative press recently - some people don't like the way he carefully controls the software and hardware worlds of his computer empire. The most public stir has been created over his refusal to allow apps in the apple store that use or were programmed with Flash. Jobs argues (rightly in my view) that Flash is a buggy, bloated programme which slows down computers. Since Jobs is trying to create portable computers that last for 11 or so hours on battery, he wants to avoid Flash. Personally I am more than happy to never see another Flash video on my computer - I can't stand the way Adobe make their software bloated to the point where it slows my computer down.

Another aspect of Job's defiance of critics has been less commented on. Jobs has argued that he wants his portable computer devices to not sell or stock pornography.

When a critic emailed him to say that this infringed his freedoms, Jobs emailed back and told him to buy a different type of computer.

Steve Jobs is a fan of Bob Dylan. So one customer emailed him to ask how Dylan would feel about Jobs' restrictions of customers' freedoms.

The CEO of Apple replied to say that he values:

'Freedom from programs that steal your private data. Freedom from programs that trash your battery. Freedom from porn. Yep, freedom. The times they are a changin' and some traditional PC folks feel their world is slipping away. It is.'

The interlocuter replied:

"I don't want 'freedom from porn'. Porn is just fine! And I think my wife would agree."

In the most revealing line, Steve Jobs dismissed the critic thus:

"You might care more about porn when you have kids."

Pause for a moment and consider what the above emails represent.

The CEO of one of the wealthiest, most successful international companies, responds to the email of a customer. Business prospers on the mantra 'The customer is always right.' Business wants the customers' money.

But in this case, over the moral issue of pornography, Jobs is happy to tell customers to buy a different product. He argues that children and innocence ought to be preserved - and that trumps the dollar.

Google (with their motto 'Don't be evil') rake in billions through pornography. Ranks of employees spend their time categorising and arranging advertising for pornography. (I know, I spent some time discussing the difficulties posed to a Christian who worked in their UK HQ) Pornography is huge business, yet here is the CEO of Apple telling the pornography businesses to take their dollars elsewhere.

Now Steve Jobs cannot actually stop pornography being accessed on the devices he sells - indeed you can jailbreak a device and run any pirated software on it. Neither can he necessarily set the ethical bar as high as a Christian may want it - but what he is doing is significant and commendable. He is taking responsibility for doing what he can. He is trying to not profit from pornography. Those deeds are important for the sake of his own soul. Matthew 18:7 comes to mind: "Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to sin! Such things must come, but woe to the man through whom they come!"

For the souls of other people, his public statements are valuable in that they permit consumers to identify with and commend his resistance to pornography. Our generation is saturated in pornography; a public statement from Steve Jobs resisting that, encourages others to believe that the secular-liberal-capitalist agenda is not the only show in town. Jobs' comments are important for the manner in which they shape public cultural discourse.

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