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Steve Jobs Defends Freedom From Porn

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In a snippy email exchange, the Apple CEO reiterates his aversion to human sexuality.

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We've all been there.

It's past midnight and we're in the final stretch of the day. Brain tired, senses dulled. Maybe we've had a couple to relax. And invariably, it's in these moments of muddled thinking that we choose to risk conversations best left to the following morning -- if at all. A business call to an employer, a text message to a former crush.

Or in Apple (AAPL) CEO Steve Jobs' case, a bitter email exchange with a tech blogger over the merits of porn.

In the last few months, the normally clandestine Jobs has certainly upped his email output to the public. (See Why Steve Jobs' Emails Should Be a CEO Habit.) The Apple chief has been fielding questions about everything from Google (GOOG) Docs compatibility on the iPad to his reasons for keeping Adobe (ADBE) Flash off his company's mobile devices. Mostly the latter. And from his increasingly aggravated tone, Jobs sounds as if he's had enough of defending his actions to dissatisfied customers.

And there are few people more upset or vocal about Apple's action as of late than those at Gawker Media. (See Apple Loses Another iPhone 4G Prototype.)

Last Friday night, already bitter from the legal issues his colleagues at Gizmodo received since showcasing a lost iPhone prototype, Valleywag writer Ryan Tate fumed over a new iPad commercial that highlighted the device as "a revolution." Tate found the ad particularly disingenuous given Apple's -- or, more specifically, Jobs' -- aggressive and oppressive business moves in the last year and fired off an angry missive to the CEO himself. He wrote:

If Dylan was 20 today, how would he feel about your company?

Would he think the iPad had the faintest thing to do with "revolution?"

Revolutions are about freedom.


And like what many of us would do in this situation, despite better judgment, Jobs replied and launched an email argument that ran from one to 2:30 in the morning.

Yep, 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 like their world is slipping away. It is.


Apple's stance on adult content made headlines in February when it swept the App Store clear of apps with material the company felt exceeded its family-friendly guidelines. Those standards, however, felt very skewed in favor of entries backed by major publishers, like Playboy (PLA) and Sports Illustrated (TWX). (See Apple Shields Our Eyes From Bikinis.)

Naturally, Tate took issue with Jobs' interpretation of "freedom" and, in the CEO's words, "Apple trying to do the right thing for its users." After Jobs labeled Tate as "bitter" and the porn matter as a "technical issue," the writer fired back:

And yes I may sound bitter. Because I don't think it's a technical issue at all -- it's you imposing your morality, about porn, about "trade secrets," about technical purity in the most bizarre sense.


Tate also addresses his disappointment of Apple's actions in the Gizmodo fiasco.

And I don't like Apple's pet police force literally kicking in my co-workers' doors. But I suppose the courts will have the last say on that, and I can't say I'm worried.


Apparently that struck a nerve, because that's when Jobs got personal:

You are so misinformed. No one kicked in any doors. You're believing a lot of erroneous blogger reports.

[...]

By the way, what have you done that's so great? Do you create anything, or just criticize others [sic] work and belittle their motivations?


And now we see why it's better to wait until the light of day to respond to a customer's hostility.

Jobs may have had a right to defend himself against Tate's snippy attack, but he only succeeded in stooping to his level, bickering without compromising, and digging himself deeper into his misguided hole. In short, Jobs proved Tate's point.

Plain and simple: Apple isn't about freedom if it remains hypocritical on App Store guidelines on adult content. It isn't about freedom if, along with third-party development platforms, it denies any app that happens to fail under these nebulous restrictions. It isn't about freedom if there's a lack of an App Store adult section for users over 18 years of age. And, most importantly, Apple mobile devices aren't "free from porn" when it's easily accessible from the Safari Web browser!

Jobs' moral crusade to keep children safe from human sexuality is ludicrous when it's just an omnipresent hyperlink away.

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