Porn on the iPhone?

Apple says it will hold the line on decency. But many say it’s just a matter of time before adult content finds its way onto the popular smartphones.

By , Staff writer

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    The Apple iPhone.
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Porn made its debut on the iPhone this week. While it was a limited showing as Apple quickly yanked the racy program from its App Store, it caused quite a stir in the tech world as bloggers were eager to speculate that Apple had opened the floodgates to adult content for its wildly popular smartphones.

But Apple appears to be holding the line on decency for now, although this brief appearance of the first application to feature nude photos raises questions about whether Apple will stick with its early pledge to not distribute X-rated content for its iPhone and iPod touch devices, which have combined sales of more than 40 million units.

On Thursday morning “The Hottest Girls” application showed up for sale via the iTunes App Store and then quickly vanished. At first, the application’s developer said it was no longer available due to its overwhelming popularity -- he said it was “sold out.”

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Apple didn’t quite see it that way. The company later said that the app had been removed because it doesn’t “distribute applications that contain inappropriate content, such as pornography.”

“The developer of this application added inappropriate content directly from their server after the application had been approved and distributed, and after the developer had subsequently been asked to remove some offensive content…. The application in no longer available on the App Store,” the company said in a statement to CNN.

While “Hottest Girls” appears to have been the first app to contain nudity, to be sure it’s not the first adult-themed application for sale on the App Store. In fact, the store is full of programs that feature scantly clad women and that come bearing warning labels that they aren’t appropriate for children under the age of 17.

When Apple released its latest version of the iPhone operating system earlier this month it came with parental controls. Many tech watchers thought this was an unstated green light for producers of adult content to begin developing pornography apps for the iPhone -- or iPorn as some have dubbed it. Already pornographers have designed websites specifically for viewing on the iPhone's browser.

“Why has Apple, a company which banned an e-book application from the same store because it could be used to download the “Kama Sutra,” suddenly started selling smut? Because the 3.0 iPhone software update now allows age restrictions for applications,” wrote Charlie Sorrel on Wired Magazine’s Gadget Lab blog.

Gadget Lab later clarified the story about the short-lived porn app, saying that the developer gave a “false explanation” about why it had been removed.

“It’s not surprising that Apple chose to deny the app, and it’s unlikely we’ll see a porn app again in the App Store -- lest developers wish to be banned,” according to the magazine’s blog.

But, it also pointed out that there “are currently more than 50,000 apps in the App Store, according to Apple, and the role of gatekeeper will get more difficult as the App Store continues to expand. Hottest Girls is another example of a developer who tricked the gatekeeper -- but only temporarily.”

Apple was recently in hot water over an application called "Baby Shaker" that found its way past the censors and onto the App Store. The company later apologized for approving the offensive app (it vets everything available on its App store) and said allowing "Baby Shaker" onto the store was a mistake.

But that mistake drew attention to the curious -- and secretive -- approval process that Apple uses to let applications onto the store. And the case over “Hottest Girls” has many developers scratching their heads because Apple’s own rating system apparently allows for nudity.

This is how TechCrunch sees it: “Is it possible that Apple approved some of the nudity but then the developer was trying to push something like hardcore pornography into the app? Maybe, but I haven’t heard any reports of that -- just that it featured pictures of topless women. And from its statement, it would seem that Apple doesn’t want any nudity, period.”

While it's still unknown exactly how “Hottest Girls” made its way onto the App Store, there is no doubt an appetite for porn on the iPhone. A group that tracks Internet search terms recently found that “iPhone porn” is typed into Google about 3,000 times daily.

“Did Apple do the right thing?” asks CNN’s ScitechBlog. “Is the fuss over this episode just silly? And, given how lucrative the pornography industry is, is it just a matter of time before nudie pics become available through the App Store?”

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