Any minute now I expect to hear that Apple has banned the Vine app. Heck, it happened to 500px, a photo-sharing service nobody thought was a porn hub until Apple booted it from the store. With all the hubbub over Vine's hubba-hubba on Twitter today, I'd be amazed if Apple just ignored it.
This presents a real dilemma to Twitter, which acquired Vine in October 2012, presumably as a response to Facebook's acquisition of Instagram. The microblog has been quite public about its opposition to censorship, even as it has had to modify its policies to assuage repressive governments. Neither Twitter's rules nor the Vine terms of service explicitly prohibit explicit content. Twitter's does ban pornographic images in profiles, but that's as far as it goes. And anyone who's spent more than five minutes on Twitter is intimately familiar with how many accounts are used simply to distribute links to adult websites.
You can of course block spammy adult accounts and report inappropriate videos on Vine, but that seems to be as far as Twitter has been willing to take its role of moral watchdog. If Apple bans its app, though, Twitter will need to make a choice: Continue its laissez faire policies and make Vine a brief yet forgettable Internet phenomenon, or change its policies in regard to porn in the hopes that Apple will reinstate it. If Twitter changes what you can and can't post to Vine, why would it stop there? Why not ban adult links outright? After porn, what's next?
It will be interesting to see exactly how this plays out. If nothing else, this inflection point demonstrates the power a single company (Apple) can have over another, even when the two don't compete in any real way.
Should Twitter ban Vine porn? If so, what about racy tweets? Weigh in below or email me: email@example.com.
This article, "First Facebook, next Apple? Twitter's future is tangled up in Vine," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the crazy twists and turns of the tech industry with Robert X. Cringely's Notes from the Field blog, and subscribe to Cringely's Notes from the Underground newsletter.