On the Internet, where pornography is the single largest business, questions like “what is porn?” take on a whole new meaning. Forget what we’ve learned watching the US Supreme Court try to answer the question, or from that famous lawsuit in Cincinnati against Hustler Publisher Larry Flynt. Porn is what you think it is, and community gatekeepers have de facto powers of censorship because they grant it to themselves.

Apple has famously thrown many apps out of the iTunes Apps Store, because they were “too racy”. Steve Jobs makes no apologies for this, even having gone so far as as to state that he believes “his users want to be protected”.

But there’s no standard being divulged, official or otherwise. If you show women in bikinis in your App you could find it banned, but it might get through. And last I checked, nobody thought women in bikinis were “naughty” . . . at least not in the United States. And oh yeah, that matters too because what you see in the App store differs depending on where you are.

Google’s fallen into this trap, as well. Last month I told you about some advertising that Google had rejected for being “too racy”. I suppose the fact that I’ve seen these commercials on (regulated) broadcast television when (unregulated) Google had rejected them is odd enough, but it’s their own internal lack of standards that’s far more puzzling; Google accepts and runs ads that are way more “racy” then the one CougarLife was trying to get through. Maybe, as I suggested then, Google suffers from some sort of misogyny (and one again, if such circumstances exist I offer big props to über-Googler Marissa Mayer).

So what’s up with this?: The Sun, a UK-based tabloid owned by News Corporation, has published an iPad App. That App is a reproduction of the newspaper. That newspaper regularly includes pictures of bare breasted women. And the App has gone through Apple’s censorship process and made it to the iTunes App Store.

There’s a piece of me that wants to go all conspiracy theory and tell you that News Corp and Apple have a buddy-buddy relationship that made getting this App, one that could just as easily been deemed pornographic under Apple’s previously demonstrated “standards”, approved. And let’s be honest: there probably was a component of business nepotism involved.

But the lesson here is this: business change isn’t something that “is”; business change is something you make happen. In context, The Sun might have gotten their App published even without a close relationship between its parent company and Apple.

And just as perception is reality, context is . . . everything.

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