ning

Andreessen Responds On Ning Porn: It's About Being Pro-Freedom

Next Story

Obama Surges, Online And Off

andressen.jpgFollowing a day or two of discussion as to whether white label social networking provider Ning was seeing most of its traffic due to porn, founder Marc Andreessen has posted a response.

Andreessen argues that Ning isn’t pro-porn, but pro-feedom, going on to say that “we think a better approach is to let people fundamentally do what they want, as long as it isn’t illegal and doesn’t otherwise violate our terms of service.”

Not surprisingly the anti-porn zealots are up in arms, claiming that it’s a shallow argument being used to protect a porn ring. The idea that Ning relies on porn came via statistics from Quantcast that suggest that Ning’s biggest sites are porn related.

There’s a couple of different arguments in play here. Andreessen argues that Quantcast, along with most tracking services don’t accurately reflect actual traffic and that traffic to Ning does not have a heavy preference for porn related social networking sites. It’s an old argument that is likely true, but we won’t dedicate a post (at least today) to the flaws of online tracking services. You can always read Michael’s various anti-Alexa posts here and here.

On the freedom of speech side the argument has validity, after all if as Andreessen says there is nothing illegal in what some people are using Ning for, why should Ning move to block this unless it’s a call based on morality alone. To quote Andreessen:

To prevent porn, you have to take an activist stand against freedom of expression — you have to get in there and judge content, judge people, judge intent, and take action based on your judgments. I would never criticize a company for doing so, but I don’t want to do that, and we as a company don’t want to do that.

We think a better approach is to let people fundamentally do what they want, as long as it isn’t illegal and doesn’t otherwise violate our terms of service.

Call it being agnostic.

And we extend this agnostic attitude to our entire service — porn, yes, but also other potentially controversial activities, ranging from political activism and protest organizing, to circumvention of censorship regimes, through to extreme cases like smuggled videos of human rights abuses in totalitarian societies.

He also goes on to note that a good portion of traffic on Yahoo is porn related as well (in particular Yahoo Groups) and even Google. Both good points; turn safe search off on Google Images for a minute then try a couple of adult search terms. Sure the counter argument is that Google isn’t hosting it (well, Blogger blogs aside and then there’s the thumbnails and cached versions), but they could block it as well.

Ultimately we’ll let you be the judge in the comments and with this poll:

Do You Support Ning’s Stance towards Porn?

Total Votes: 2047
Started: January 5, 2008

blog comments powered by Disqus