Et Tu, Google? Porn Takes It Up the Glass.
By now, you know the story: following a flurry of tech-sector news articles about potential adult entertainment applications for Google Glass, Google quietly changed their developer policies on a Saturday morning, just two days before Mikandi – unaware of the change in Google’s policy – announced the release of Tits & Glass, its much anticipated (by tech-sector journalists, at least) maiden app for Glass.
My initial reaction was that while this development sucked a gargantuan set of excessively pungent balls from Mikandi’s perspective, at least they were given the opportunity to exploit the whole scene for publicity, much as some other adult companies did back when Apple first made it clear that porn was not welcome in the App Store.
Then it hit me; what I really object to here is something that goes way beyond Mikandi – and well beyond the mobile adult entertainment sector at large, for that matter.
Google has made a lot of hay over the years about its core value, its simple (some might say simplistic) slogan: “Don’t be evil.” It’s one of those things that sounds good on paper, and looks good when accompanied by a smug, knowing grin – the sort of grin one spawns when one has successfully pulled the wool over the eyes of a massive market.
Here’s the thing, Google: censorship is evil, and selective, self-interested corporate censorship is no exception. It’s also far from the only way in which your company has become, let’s face it, pretty goddamn evil.
It’s evil to permit a circumstance in which the rights holders to motion pictures, sound recordings, photographs, etc. query your search engine for their own works, only to find that the top responses are links to sites that are distributing those works illegally.
It’s evil to drive around the streets sucking down data from unsecured wireless connections, and to log that data without anything even remotely resembling permission from, or notice to, the consumers and businesses affected by that little caper.
It’s evil to permit sites that clearly, obviously and unambiguously trade in pirated and counterfeited goods to participate in your advertising network as publishers, thereby not only aiding and abetting in the distribution of illicit goods, but supplying the criminal operators of such sites with a crucial source of revenue.
It’s evil to hold yourself out as a proponent of network neutrality with the one hand, while using the other hand to come to an accord with the Chinese government, allowing the State to censor Google’s search results within China. (Piling a particularly vicious strain of cynicism on top of that particular evil, my sense is that Google struck that agreement not because the company really believed that access to even a limited version of Google would enhance the lives of the Chinese people, but because the company just couldn’t bear the idea of being locked out of such an enormous market.)
It’s evil, not to mention more than a tad hypocritical, to oppose virtually any attempt to strengthen intellectual property protections for online materials while aggressively asserting your own intellectual property rights when it suits you.
Some might say it’s a stretch to call it evil to ban porn apps for Glass, but you know what? Banning porn apps for Glass is evil too.
Banning porn apps for Glass is evil for the same reasons that I consider obscenity laws to be evil. The ban is capricious, paternalistic, vague, overbroad and treats Android users in the aggregate as a bunch of children who need to be protected from their own naïve – and therefor potentially dangerous – inclinations.
Google’s Glass porn ban has another defining trait, one that might not be evil, but certainly isn’t good: the ban is entirely pointless.
Unless Google is contemplating a major change to its broader content and developer policies, Glass will be the only of Google’s platforms from which porn is banned, or regulated in any meaningful way, for that matter.
While porn has never been allowed in Google Play, independent app stores like Mikandi and AdultAppMart are permitted to distribute sexually explicit apps, and as any site operator who has Google Analytics embedded on his sites can tell you, Android users are not exactly shy about browsing porn sites using the on-deck Chrome browser that comes with their tablets and smartphones.
Then, of course, there’s Google itself, the search engine that spawned it all; last I checked, porn was pretty freaking accessible using good ol’ google.com. Let’s put it this way: any parent whose kid can’t figure out how to make porn display right there in the SERPS in response to a Google image search has bigger concerns than the possibility that the child might be a pervert; that child might well be in a persistent vegetative state.
I’m not contending that Google has no ‘right’ to ban porn apps from Glass – its Google’s product and Google can do what it damn well pleases with respect to its own content policies, after all – I’m just disappointed to see a company that professes to be all about giving the people what they want (even if what the people want is a pretty obvious violation of intellectual property law and/or other statutes) decide that it needs to serve as a digital nanny state, albeit one with confounding and highly inconsistent scruples.
There’s one final irony here, as well. When it’s all said and done, porn producers both amateur and professional will use Glass to shoot porn, and unless I’m missing something, there’s not a damn thing Google can do to prevent that.
Even if there’s no advantage to using Glass to shoot porn, it will happen, if for no other reason than some pornographer, somewhere, will want to capitalize on the opportunity presented by getting to thumb his nose at Google, and generate publicity for himself in the process.
Such a brazen publicity stunt might even be a little “evil”… but it’s an evil I can get behind.