500px’s iOS App Pulled By Apple Over Nude Photo Search. Is Flickr Next?

500px(pp_w698_h451)

Apple has pulled the apps of popular photo-sharing site 500px over concerns that it is too easy to search for nude photographs within the app. This, despite the fact that 500px’s method of dealing with searches for nude images is even more prohibitive than that of the official Flickr iPhone app. Could Flickr be next?

500px’s mobile app was pulled around 1AM this morning after discussions with Apple over the relative ease with which users could search for nude photos within the app failed to result in a compromise.

Techcrunch explains the issue:

The Apple reviewer told the company that the update couldn’t be approved because it allowed users to search for nude photos in the app. This is correct to some extent, but 500px had actually made it tough to do so, explains Tchebotarev. New users couldn’t just launch the app and locate the nude images, he says, the way you can today on other social photo-sharing services like Instagram or Tumblr, for instance. Instead, the app defaulted to a “safe search” mode where these types of photos were hidden. To shut off safe search, 500px actually required its users to visit their desktop website and make an explicit change.

Tchebotarev said the company did this because they don’t want kids or others to come across these nude photos unwittingly. “Some people are mature enough to see these photos,” he says, “but by default it’s safe.”

flickr

500px was banned, but it’s even easier to search for nude images in Flickr’s iOS app.

What’s interesting about this to me is that 500px’s method of keeping minors from seeing nude images in their official iOS app is a lot more prohibitive than that employed by Flickr, a similar photo-sharing app. On Flickr, users default to “Safe Search” mode, but when a nude image is searched for, it’s still only a single in-app tap away.

If 500px can be kicked off the App Store for allowing users to search for nude photographs, will Apple stop there, or start going after the apps of other sites that host nudity, like Flickr and Tumblr?

500px has apparently already submitted an updated version of their app, which is waiting aproval and makes it impossible to search for nude images within app, but come on, this is just silly. 500px is an app for photographers, not pornographers, and it already has a system for weeding out pornography that is uploaded to te service. Surely, at a certain point, Apple has just got to trust that the world’s not going to end if an app takes sensible precautions and a minor accidentally sees a pair of boobs. Right?

Update: Apple has responded to the controversy with a 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.

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  • boblevel

    Apple’s never heard of Google search? WIll it get the axe next?

  • Steffen Jobbs

    With Apple getting a 30% cut from each downloaded app, Apple is just throwing away easy money it desperately needs to keep investors happy.

  • patrickahles

    With Apple getting a 30% cut from each downloaded app, Apple is just throwing away easy money it desperately needs to keep investors happy.

    It’s a free app…

  • Dave Stephens

    So Safari remains the King of all porn searches… Ultra hypocritical much, Apple? LOL

  • Guest

    so what about any tumblr photo app?

  • Dominus

    This is getting absurd. It’s a photo-based app that covers all sorts of photos, including nudes, as does Flickr, Tumblr and a plethora of others. I’m am an Apple fan, but I’m not an Apple fascist and they seems to be loosing touch with this thing called the Internet and a free market system. I guess I should just use Apple’s Safari to review MY OWN 500px account and look at all the photos (incl. nudes) on my iPhone, iPad or my iMac (seems rather hypocritical Safari allows me to do that even on iOS). The fact is ANY photo-sharing site with an app will have some “adult” content and most make it harder to find, but if someone wants to find it there’s little to be done. Maybe we should just take all computers and iOS devices away, as well as all Internet connectivity to make sure Apple’s devices are “puritanically” safe. Hypocrites.

  • ulyssesric

    This is getting absurd.

    Relax man, I believe it’s just pulled so that they could add age restrictions to it. You may find it on the shelf again with age 12+ or 17+ tag soon. It’s not something new for App Store. Check the relative news links above, and do remember to check the “Update” parts.

  • technochick

    Was it rated adults only? Just how easy was it to go to the site to turn off safe search.

    If it was rated safe for kids etc and/or there were no protections to keep a kid from going to the site and turning off the protection then it earned the boot.

    Before folks get outraged, these sorts of things are in the rules every developer agrees to when they sign up to be one and when they submit a binary. If they didn’t like it they could have stuck with being a web site.

  • technochick

    So Safari remains the King of all porn searches… Ultra hypocritical much, Apple? LOL

    Not so much, since any parent that wishes can enable restrictions and turn off safari in their kids devices.

  • TeddyBallgame

    There is a seemingly widespread misunderstanding of the reason that Apple removed 500px from the App Store. Despite the public relations spin that has been presented to the media by the leadership of 500px, no special action was required to access explicit images of nude women. The photographers who presented such photos were well represented among those photographers whose work depicted images of eagles, leopards, spectacular landscapes and the like. But more importantly, the apparent reason that Apple took action is not simply about easy access to nudity. One of the photographers whose photos recently appeared on 500px, who went by the name of “pussy” ( honest – I did not make that up), presented multiple full frontal nude photos of girls who were unmistakably under 14 years of age. These images could not in any way have been construed as “artistic.” They were clearly child pornography. No matter how strongly some may feel that Apple engaged in censorship, and no matter how loudly some may argue that images of nudity are easily accessed on sites such as Flickr, child pornography is an entirely different matter.

  • ulyssesric

    John, Flickr will not be the next, because Flickr.app is already tagged as age 12+.

About the author

John BrownleeJohn Brownlee is a Contributing Editor. He has also written for Wired, Playboy, Boing Boing, Popular Mechanics, VentureBeat, and Gizmodo. He lives in Boston with his girlfriend and two parakeets. You can follow him here on Twitter.

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