Tales from the Net

a work in progress

Monday, January 14, 2008

Marc Andreessen on adult content and porn on Ning

Marc Andreessen, originally of Mozilla/Netscape fame and now at Ning.com, has a lengthy blog post up on Porn, Ning, and the Internet.  The context here is suggestions that a large part of Ning’s traffic is from adult content; since Penthouse just spent $500 million acquiring a set of adult content-focused social networking sites including Adult Friend Finder, this wouldn’t be completely surprising.

Although he disputes the numbers (“adult topics and content are a relatively small percentage of the total activity on Ning”) and warns in general that reported numbers are often misleading (“I’m talking about Compete, Quantcast, Alexa, and even Comscore — none of their data maps in any way to numbers or patterns we see in our own server logs and activity metrics”),  Andreessen isn’t apologetic about the presence of porn and adult content on Ning.  In fact, he draws a hard line about why Ning doesn’t attempt to eliminate or restrict legal porn and adult content:

“In a nutshell, we aren’t pro-porn, but we are pro-freedom.”

However, he’s also very conscious that any social network platform like Ning needs to support the people who don’t want to deal with content that that find objectionable:

Social networks on Ning are segmented by definition — and networks can be configured to be totally self-contained, so you don’t see any content or users outside of your network.

You can use Ning safely for many purposes without ever being exposed to any potentially offensive content.

He ends by looking at how different internet companies have responded to porn, contrasting what he sees as the relatively balanced approach of some companies with the “much more activist — or harsher, depending on your point of view” approach of YouTube and Facebook:

I think both approaches — agnosticism and zero-tolerance — can work to build a business. We’re very comfortable with the approach we have chosen, because we find it comfortable to be on the side of relative openness and freedom, along with AOL, Yahoo, and Google.

Of course, it’s a lot easier to take this stance in the current climate where the 2257 regs (which have very onerous requirements on web sites which host content that could be considered adult) aren’t being actively enforced.  Still, it’s a strong statement that Andreessen is willing to be so explicit about Ning’s stance, rather than take the “let’s not talk about it” approach that AOL and Yahoo prefer.

posted by Jon at 3:13 pm  

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