Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Apple’s Parental Controls Blocks Most Things ‘Asian’

Steven Shen:

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 [Feedback] a long time ago. Nothing changed.

Victoria Song, Gizmodo:

Other racial or ethnic search terms such as “Black,” “white,” “Korean,” “Arab” or “French” don’t seem to be impacted by the filter. Also confusingly, some popular pornographic search terms are blocked while others aren’t. For example, the search term “schoolgirl” isn’t blocked but “redhead” is.


Right now, it’s not clear how Apple decides which search terms are adult and which ones aren’t. It’s very possible that this is a goof from some AI program that just scrapes search results for popular porn terms. But at the same time, something like this should not be left to AI without some sort of human curation. The alternative — that a group of humans did oversee and approve this list of terms — would be exponentially worse. Regardless of whether this was or wasn’t an intentional decision, the fact this had been reported to Apple more than a year ago and still nothing has changed is massively disappointing.

It isn’t just iOS — the equivalent feature in MacOS also blocks “Asian” websites, but less consistently. If I enable website restrictions on MacOS, I am able to search Wikipedia and access articles with “Asian” in their titles and URLs; on iOS, those same searches and articles are blocked.

It also is not the sole racial or racially-related term blocked by Screen Time, but it is one of very few. While you can visit Ebony Magazine’s website with parental controls enabled, searching Google for the lyrics to Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder’s “Ebony and Ivory” is blocked. It is, however, the only one that prohibits the searching of an entire continent.

This is upsetting, made all the more so by Apple’s lack of acknowledgement to Shen’s bug report. I thought of this as a Scunthorpe problem in an earlier version of this post, but that is hardly the case. “Asian” — and “ebony”, for that matter — need more words and context added to be considered sexualized.