Apple iPad versus free speech?
Nigel Warburton: Apple iPad versus free speech?
28 May 10

Steve Jobs wants the iPad, which goes on sale in the UK today, porn free. He’s said so. And unlike most people, he can make this sort of thing happen. Approval for Apple’s App store involves passing the censor — and the threshold is quite high: Germany’s Stern magazine recently failed because it runs topless photographs.

It’s not clear whether this just applies to visual porn — nor how this is defined. Are the works of the Marquis de Sade pornography? Will there be an iPad app for Last Exit to Brooklyn?

Well, no one has to buy the iPad or any other Apple product. So this seems to be fair enough. There are plenty of alternatives at the moment. Google, for example, in contrast to Apple seems committed to openness. But what if Apple grew and completely dominated the market? What if just about every e-book or e-magazine publisher chose to do exclusive deals with them? Suppose Apple decides on a whim that it’s not just porn they want to control but anything that might be deemed “offensive”? We’d end up with Steve Jobs or his successor as a de facto online censor, and self-censorship being the route to e-publication readable on the device everyone is using. Is this the future we want? Are we happy that Jobs is controlling iPad content so carefully already?