Apple capitulated* to more than 140,000 people who signed an online petition to remove a “Gay Cure” application from their App Store. While the ignorance of those who attempt to “cure” homosexuality still astounds me, I admit I have mixed feelings about Apple’s actions and wonder if a small adjustment might get them out of their current “Moral Police” predicament.
I’ll admit right now I signed the petition. After all, since Apple has already removed published applications on moral grounds, it seems odd this one even made it into the store to begin with. Now I’m not sure I should have. Not because I don’t think the “Gay Cure” thing is right but because I gripe about heavy-handed censorship any other time.
The real issue is that Apple entered into policing the morality of applications posted to the App Store at all. By doing so, they’ve inadvertently begun broadcasting what people can’t help but take as a sociopolitical stance on a number of very heated issues. In the public’s eyes, if they ban God-Hates-Fags.app but allow Gaydar-Dating.app, they seem to take an anti-conservative stance. If they do the opposite, they take an anti-human-rights stance. In hindsight, it’s clear Apple should never have donned the Moral Police uniform in their store in the first place.
Now what about this “small adjustment” I mentioned? Many of us gripe at the idea of ratings (and how heavy-handed the “won’t-somebody-please-think-of-the-children?!” interest groups can be), but a rating system already exists in the US. What’s more is Apple itself has built parental controls into iOS. If they relied on ratings based on the same standards the TV, film, and radio industries use, they can easily put control back into the hands of dutiful parents who don’t want Little Billy to see (much less download) Gutter-Butt-Sex.app. Not only can children be protected (and I fully agree they should be) from smut and social recklessness until they’re old enough to understand it in context, but we grown-ups who can decide for our-goddamn-selves can set an appropriate filter level or ignore the rating system altogether.
Would this cause the App Store to be flooded with thousands of *Porn.app clones? Almost certainly. But if the filter defaults to “no X-rated stuff” and the App Store reviewers follow the rating system, not only can most of us avoid shocking our delicate sensibilities, but Apple can say “Hey, we’re just following the rating system as dictated by the will of the American people.” Also, you crazy Europeans can enjoy your X-rated apps sans American prudishness alongside your sex-themed donut commercials.
Let the bigots have their fun (only anti-homosexual bigots afraid they might be gay would download it anyway), but mark it as at least rated R for its borderline-hatespeech nature and let people vent via 1-star user reviews.