Sex and NSFW clips flood new Vine app from Twitter. Will Apple respond?

Twitter's new Vine app has lots of embedded porn. Will Apple take any action?

Just a few days ago, Twitter unveiled a new app called Vine for the iPhone and iPod Touch. The app enables users to record six-second videos and embed them within tweets. The videos are played in a loop, so you might liken them to modern-day animated gifs.

The Vine app, much like Twitter, lets users explore and discover content via hashtags. However, it didn't take long at all for hashtags for words like #sex and #porn to take center stage. Indeed, any NSFW term one can think of likely already has a listing via Vine. While the Vine app has functionality that enables users to flag videos as inappropriate, this only serves to provide a warning to users before a video begins playing.

So why is this a problem? After all, the web is chock full of pornography.

Well, it may be a problem for Apple given that it has taken such a staunch anti-porn stance regarding the iTunes App Store since it first launched back in 2008. Indeed, Steve Jobs used to tout this as advantage the iTunes App Store had over competing Android app stores, effectively calling the latter a repository for porn.

Back in 2010 for example, Steve Jobs said that Apple has a "moral responsibility to keep porn off the iPhone," also adding that "folks who want porn can buy an Android phone."

So, clearly, Apple doesn't play around when it comes to adult content, and there is certainly no shortage of apps that have been refused entry into the app store on account of even tangential adult content.

Recently, Apple removed a popular photo sharing app called 500px because it was rather easy for users to browse around and find nude photos.

In the wake of that removal, Apple issued the following statement:

The app was removed from the App Store for featuring pornographic images and material, a clear violation of our guidelines. We also received customer complaints about possible child pornography. We've asked the developer to put safeguards in place to prevent pornographic images and material in their app.

It's worth noting that 500px reached out to The Verge a few days ago and said that the company has never received a complaint regarding child pornography.

[CEO] Tchebotarev has responded to us, saying that 500px was not told about the child pornography complaints and that Apple had not mentioned any issues around nudity until a phone call yesterday. "We've never ever, since the beginning of the company, received a single complaint about child pornography. If something like that ever happened, it would be reported right away to enforcement agencies."

So what gives? 500px gets the boot but Twitter's Vine is a-ok? What's more, Vine is still prominently featured on the iOS App Store as an "Editor's Choice".

The problem for Apple, despite its good intentions, is that anytime an app opens the door for user-submitted content, an influx of porn is inevitable. That said, if Apple wants to remove every application that serves as a gateway for pornography, they'd have to pull Safari off of every iPhone. Besides, Twitter - even before Vine - has served as a bastion for adult content for many users. Where Apple runs into criticism is when it selectively enforces its app store rules and lets some apps in while pulling or rejecting others.

Brian Proffitt of ReadWrite notes:

If Vine remains on the App Store after such a review, this would demonstrate a serious flaw in Apple's store model. If Apple placates big-name app developers and bend the rules for them to let their apps stay in the App Store, then the unfairness we've suspected will be brought into the harsh light of reality.

While that makes sense on the surface, the reality may be a bit more nuanced. While it's ostensibly unfair for Apple to bend the rules slightly for big-name app developers, they may have more trust in the eyes of Apple to immediately take care of issues as they arise. A small independent developer, in contrast, may take longer to implement changes demanded by Apple.

Either way, consistency would be nice and it'll be interesting to see how Apple responds, if at all. As it stands now, Vine has a 12+ rating indicating that it may not be suitable for anyone under the age of 12. Perhaps a 17+ rating on the app is the way to go should the issue persist. Note that web browsers on the App Store, such as Opera and Google Chrome, can only be purchased by users 17 and older. Of course, Safari comes standard so consistency may not necessarily be a wholly achievable goal.

Lastly, lest anyone think this is exclusively a problem Apple has to grapple with, Vine for a brief period featured a hardcore pornographic clip as an "Editor's Pick" early on Monday morning. Twitter has since responded, stating:

A human error resulted in a video with adult content becoming one of the videos in Editor's Picks, and upon realizing this mistake we removed the video immediately. We apologize to our users for the error.

Thus far, Apple hasn't issued any official comment about Vine.

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