Looking for a hooker in San Francisco? No problem. Simply click on Craigslist's new adult services category and you'll be greeted by nearly 500 ads for sexual services catering to all tastes and predilections. (Ironically, this new human-managed category was meant to prevent the use of Craigslist as a center for prostitution, which led to several states threatening the classfiied-ads site.)
Meanwhile, the Chinese government backed off -- at least temporarily -- from its ill-conceived attempt to force computer makers to add porn filters to all PCs sold in the People's Republic. And Apple has added parental control software to iPhone OS 3.0, a move that was promptly followed by the launch of the App Store's first X-rated application.
[ Related: Enterprises become the battleground for social networking. | Bob Lewis' Advice Line blog: Social networking software for businesses. | Time to check out social networking and SOA. ]
All three of these incidents underscore the futility of attempts to keep sex off the Web, something both governments and businesses repeatedly try to do.
But there's a larger issue here, illustrated by the stunning success of Iranian dissidents in bringing their case to the attention of the whole world, even as the Tehran government cracked down on foreign reporters. Social media and the mobile Web are running far ahead of old-school morality and political discipline.
China backs off
The inability of the elites to control communications has profound implications at every level of society. Take the workplace. It's one thing to stop employees from viewing pornography on company time; it's quite another to stop them from using social media to give the world a peek beneath the corporate kimono. It won't work. Anyone smart enough to use social media can easily hide his or her tracks and keep the boss at bay.
Aside from issues of civil liberties and the like, the surge of social media (particularly via sites like Facebook), the mobile Web, and messaging (including Twitter) is creating an enormous market opportunity.