Technology

Apple’s ‘adult’ filters stop iPhone users Googling the word ‘Asian’

Apple’s iPhones and iPads automatically block the word “Asian” if users turn on in-built blockers for “adult content”.

In iOS 14, the company’s mobile operating system, users have the options to limit screen time settings. Under those settings include content and privacy sections, where parents can limit web content between “unrestricted access”, “limit adult websites”, and “allowed websites only”.

Selecting to “limit adult websites” will restrict Safari, as well as any other web browser installed on the iPhone such as Brave, from viewing any content that includes the word “Asian” in the URL. That includes any Google search for any phrase including the word, for instance.

As such, phrases like “Asian food” or “Asian countries” are unable to be searched for while this restriction is active. 

“The URL was blocked by a content filter”, the error message states. The message does not come up when searching for the words “black”, “white”, “Arab”, “Korean”, or “French” – other popular racial categories on pornographic websites – nor “schoolgirl”, but is activated when users search for “teen”, “amateur”, and “mature”.

The issue was spotted by iOS developer Steven Shen, who originally filed a report with Apple in December 2019 stating that Apple’s filters were showing “Incorrect/Unexpected Behaviour” but received no reply from the company.

“On iOS, if you turn on “Limit Adult Website” under Screen Time->Content Restrictions, Safari blocks any website URL containing the word “asian”. Seriously, go try it, it’s unbelievable. I filed a [report with Apple] a long time ago. Nothing changed”, Shen tweeted.

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Apple forbids searching for the word “Asian”

(Steven Shen)

Apple’s content settings are also available on its Mac computers, which run MacOS, but search results for the word “Asian” were available while this setting was activated.

It is unclear how Apple decides which words do or do not fall under the “adult” label on its iPhones and iPads.

“I think it’s unlikely someone intentionally hard coded this. Probably the result of AI. Similar to how facial recognition has trouble working on people with darker skin tones”, Shen told The Independent.

Apple’s bug tracking is perhaps quite notorious in the Apple developer community. Most of the feedback we filed seemingly go into a blackhole. I wish they fixed it sooner.”

Apple did not respond to a request for comment from The Independent before time of publication.

“It’s abhorrent that the word “Asian” makes us think of porn rather than representing an entire group of people. The fetishisation of Asian people – particularly young girls and women – is fundamentally sexist and racist,” Kate Isaacs, the founder of NotYourPorn – an organisation which aims to raise awareness of injustices in the pornography industry – told The Independent.

“Ethnicities are not kinks. We cannot ignore the porn industry’s responsibility in the fetishisation of young girls and particular ethnicities – they should be held accountable like any other form of media. It’s upsetting that an Asian person could be searching for representation completely innocently online, only to find that tech companies see them solely as something NSFW.”

This is not the only time where Apple’s parental controls have been questioned; the company’s iOS 12 operating system filtered the terms “safe sex,” “sex assault hotline,” and “sex education,” but did allow users to search for instructions on joining a terrorist group.

Source:

www.independent.co.uk

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