My old university’s library was a den of pornographic filth, but no one ever considered shading the windows strip-club black because a few stragglers watched sex on public computers. Yet, that’s precisely the odd logic that led video sharing app, Vine, to up its age rating to 17+ after users were found sharing naughty content. While we may not want to celebrate our porn-filled culture, restricting anything which may inadvertently lead to adult content logically puts us on the silly path toward blanket censorship.
A quick Google search for “porn problem” reveals that most major Internet services have displayed their fair share of twigs and berries. Photosharing app, 500px, got booted from the iTunes store, and was only allowed to return after it had donned the scarlet letter “17+” badge of shame.
Tumblr, the blogging platform so popular that it helped shape national political debate, also found naughty bits mixed into the site. The same goes for the Internet titans, Pinterest, YouTube, and Facebook.
Also, Google. Google has so much porn that my constitutional law professor used to challenge students to see how many ways we could inadvertently stumble upon porn with searches a child was likely to make. Hint: Under the logic of Vine, the word “teen” is practically an expletive on Google.
Put up all the age restrictions you want, a determined child is going to see naked people. Probably the best parody of this principle came from our friends at The Onion, with an article titled, ‘I Am Under 18’ Button Clicked For First Time In History Of Internet.”
There should be reasonable attempts to educate parents about age-appropriate software and restrict access to egregious material, but a generic content sharing app shouldn’t be in the same league as the app, “Free Sex Positions Decision Maker.”
However, a principle that censors all inadvertently pornographic applications is both ineffective at keeping out curious kids and needlessly hinders the free flow of information.