Tim Cook moves on from Steve Jobs' hatred of porn on the iPhone: 'I'm not making fun of it'

MSNBCTim Cook talking on MSNBC on Wednesday.
  • Tim Cook on Wednesday said he didn’t care whether people looked at porn on their iPhones: “If you want to do that … I’m not making fun of it.”
  • That’s an evolution from Steve Jobs’ more hardline position, that the iPhone offered “freedom from porn.”

Apple CEO Tim Cook on Wednesday said he was comfortable with people using an iPhone to look at pornography – an opinion that represents a change of tone from the Apple cofounder Steve Jobs’ well-known dislike of adult-entertainment content.

In an interview on MSNBC, Cook talked about how the company reviewed and approved every app offered in the iPhone App Store and rejected those containing porn.

“What you sell in that store says something about you,” he said, and Apple chooses not to offer that material. But then he added: “It doesn’t mean that you can’t use an iPhone to go to your browser and go to some porno site, if you want to do that, but -“

Recode’s Kara Swisher, who was hosting the interview, joked, “Nobody does that.”

And Cook replied: “I’m not making fun of it.”

That is a marked transition from the Jobs line. The founder repeatedly talked about his dislike of porn, saying the iPhone’s controlled environment offered “freedom from porn” and “folks who want porn can buy an Android phone.”

(The policy difference between Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android is that apps on Android have historically been required only to obey Google’s technical requirements, whereas Apple has human staff members who review them for acceptable content too.)

Cook’s line felt a little more permissive. Nonetheless, it also dovetails with Apple’s longtime prohibition on controversial or offensive content in the App Store. After the studio audience’s laughter subsided, he added: “I’m just saying that it’s not what we want to put in our store. We want kids to go to the store, right?”

Read the whole exchange below:

Tim Cook: We’re looking at every app in detail. What is it doing, is it doing what it’s saying it’s doing, is it meeting the privacy policy that they’re stating, right? And so, we’re always looking at that. Should we raise the bar even more? We’re always looking at improving and raising the bar. But we do carefully review each app and police now. And we don’t subscribe to the view that you have to let everybody in that wants to or if you don’t, you don’t believe in free speech.

Kara Swisher: It’s a very valid –

Cook: Right? We don’t believe that – we don’t believe that because we’re like the guy on the corner store. What you sell in that store says something about you, and if you don’t want to sell that other thing, you don’t sell it. It doesn’t mean that you can’t use an iPhone to go to your browser and go to some porno site, if you want to do that, but –

Swisher: Nobody does that. (LAUGHTER)

Cook: I’m not making fun of it.

Swisher: No, I –

Cook: But I’m just saying that it’s not what we want to put in our store. We want kids to go to the store, right, because kids – there’s a lot of learning, education apps in the store. And so, we’ve always done that. We’ve worked for the music industry to code things explicit, and so a parent could say, “I don’t want my child listening to explicit content.” We make sure all the movies are coded in such a way where you can say, “I only want my child looking at G movies,” or whatever, or we have a parental control around apps. You can say, “I don’t want them on these certain apps.” And so, this is something we’ve always felt really responsible for.

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