Vine Doesn't Have a Porn Problem, You Do

Twitter introduces a new app that allows human beings to share six seconds of video on their iPhones and what does it expect we’re going to do with it?

We might share a clip of the pile of neatly garnished food on our plate when we eat out, and maybe we’ll snip a few seconds of smoke-smothered concert footage here and there, but we’re definitely going to take some video of our genitalia. It’s simply what humans have a long and storied track record of doing, and will likely continue to do as new and innovative media platforms continue to provide us with new and innovative ways to do it.

So, Twitter must have anticipated that its new Vine app would run into this problem—6-second amateur porn clips getting tossed around and RT’d faster than a tweenage Bieber truth-blast.

But maybe it apparently didn’t anticipate the porn being this much of an issue—the news today is that a 6-second clip of someone playing with a dildo somehow made it to the top of the ‘Editor’s picks’ pile, where it was viewable by anyone and everyone who’d downloaded the app. That's a problem.

Not because Twitter will have to work to keep porn off the Editor’s Picks section and out of the spotlight, necessarily—they’ll surely be able to manage that going forward, I hope—but because the wave of porn-fueled publicity is now going to force Apple, which is known for its stringent-if-capricious App Store policy guidelines, to decide whether or not to oust it or at least demand that Twitter trim the vine some, so to speak.

But it's much ado over nothing. It’s not as if this is the first time people have been able to access porn videos on a mainstream social media site owned by Twitter, after all. Twitter itself has been available for use as a massive search engine for amateur porn since its inception, but nobody really cared because it wasn’t quite as massive a search engine for amateur porn as Google or Yahoo or anything else. But anyone with a Twitter account could share that porn with their followers, obviously, and not just 6-second dong shots, but full-on hardcore porn videos.

Here, for example, is a Twitter feed that is exclusively dedicated to sending out tweets with links to porn, which of course anyone may RT at any time. Here is another. And another. And here is a tweet with a link to a pair of boobs that was retweeted and favorited 50 times. Meanwhile, #boobs and #porn and who knows what else were already popular hashtags before Vine porn fiasco, and can be accessed by millions of people at any time. And Twitter’s tenure in the App Store has never really been threatened.

So what’s new here, again? Why the outrage over the fact that Vine allows the easy sharing of porn vids when the easy sharing of porn vids has been the internet’s forte for decades now?

Maybe it’s because this kind of porn just feels different—Vine subjects you to the possibility that someone you follow might publish a video of their own genitals, and that just seems dirtier than some random, porn site-sanctioned clip, even though it’s probably not, really. The armchair psychologist in me says that we view internet porn through a self-imposed filter, as a part of an effort to distance ourselves from the taboo it carries: we do not know these people whose genitals we are looking at, they are probably professionals, or at least they probably have some kind of fetish and they probably get off on seeing their bodies entwined online, but anyway, they’re not like me. These videos accrue hundreds of millions of views—while many folks still aren’t comfortable admitting they watch them, they’re certainly comfortable enough consuming them. Yet the prospect of stumbling upon an errant vagina in their Vine feed is beyond the pale. 

But children! Children could see it! Yeah, children can already access the hell out of porn on Google, Twitter, Snapchat, Reddit, etc, where the same problems with censoring search results and access apply—Vine isn’t bringing anything novel to the table except for the perceived proximity of the smut in question. But Vine is the new thing from Twitter, and it’s in the App Store, so we have to Discuss it.

I would also like to mention that plenty of folks are making non-Vine videos with their smart phones and have been since the first one rolled off the assembly line.

That said, Vine will certainly have to curate its Editor’s Picks section and keep explicit accounts from showing up in the ‘Explore’ feed (Vine’s equivalent to Twitter’s ‘Discover’). Once they iron out those kinks, steering clear of porn will be up to you. People who want to use the service will do what we do with any social media—or in any meatspace social circle—we’ll decide who we want to spend time with and who we want to ignore. And most of us simply decide, rather quickly, to stop hanging around the guy who keeps pulling his junk out.

Topics: twitter, porn, Vine

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