Facebook is known to take what it perceives to be the moral high road when it comes to its social networking platform. It doesn't think people should see mothers breast feeding and doesn't believe people should choose their own names, which has led to significant protests and real world harm to its users, as we covered here.
The latest victim of its holier-than-thou policies is the adult entertainment industry, which Facebook announced on Friday will be banned from its Oculus virtual reality headset.
In a move showing just how much control Facebook wants to have over all things 3D, the company is proposing that anything that wants to use Oculus, a set of VR goggles, will have to submit an 'app' to its 'app store', which will be vetted by the company to ensure it is safe and pleasant.
Just why the world needs an app store to use a set of goggles is another question, answered mostly by Facebook's quest for control and lock-in, but that's a topic for another day.
When the Facebook-owned company starts selling its Oculus Rift virtual reality headset in the first quarter of next year, it will explicitly (pun intended) ban virtual adult content.
A company representative reiterated the company's puritanical position on the matter on Friday:
“Oculus only distributes developer content that meets their terms of service, which forbid pornographic content from being a part of the Oculus Store,” the spokesman said.
Yet its an odd moral stance, given sex is innately human.
And what, then, about violence?
If Oculus wants the world inside its headsets to be a highly censored, family-friendly, environment, how will it handle violent content?
Oculus preferred not to answer that question, stating:
“Oculus only distributes developer content that meets their terms of service, but they aren’t open to discuss what those terms are at this time.”
That's a loud silence on an issue that's not hypothetical.
Gaming, after all, is expected to be one of the most popular uses of virtual reality headsets.
The most popular genre of games in the world are first person shooters, which are inherently violent. Grotesquely so, in fact.
Virtual reality will also open the door to other forms of entertainment like 3D movies. What, then, will happen to gory horror movies?
In typical Facebook style there seems to be a rush to put out policies without thinking them through, a move which could have very severe consequences for the profitability of Facebook's $2 billion Oculus acquisition.
There are no shortage of VR goggle makers. Heavyweights like Sony, Samsung, Google and startups like SeaBreeze, among countless others, have all confirmed plans to make VR goggles and release them about the same time as Oculus. There's nothing particularly special about Oculus and even if there was, history is not on the company's side.
It was the adult entertainment industry, after all, which caused the VHS videotape standard to win out over the technically superior Betamax in the early 80s.
The porn business is used to dealing with moral objections to its wares and is also the very earliest adopter of virtually all technology. The industry caters to a massive audience and tends to move in unison. When one big company backs a technology, others quickly follow, establishing the standard for the industry. Right now they're aggressively developing 3D content ahead of the release of consumer-ready VR goggles.
If Facebook bans the industry they will just go somewhere else. En mass. To Sony or Samsung or Google or whoever lets them operate.
Such a move could severely limit the adoption of Oculus and its plan to standardize the industry around its platform and app store.
By ignoring history Facebook could doomed to repeat it.