Apple Parental Controls Prevent Children From Searching For “Asian” Items


Apple has spent years making sure its smartphones and tablets are safe for children to use, but some of its family-friendly content controls are overzealous – and seemingly damaging. According to a report by The independent Today, content controls built into the Screen Time feature of iOS 14, intended to limit access to adult websites, also prevent users from searching for the word “Asian” in Safari and other browsers.

The block not only disallows searches for that word, it also applies to related ideas and phrases. “Asian cuisine” is prohibited, as are terms like “Asian fusion”, “Asian diaspora”, “Asian communities”, “Asian countries” and “Asian politics”, “Asian cultures” and “Asian hairstyles”. Oddly enough, the only thematically appropriate term we’ve tried is Apple’s parental controls. allowed was “Asian restaurants”, although related queries such as “Asian cuisine” were rejected. During this time, searches for similar terms with the words “European”, “African”, “Indian” or “Arab” instead of “Asian” were resolved without problems.

At this point, it’s unclear exactly how Apple decides what terms its Parental Controls should deny access to. For better or worse, however, the company hasn’t done a very thorough job enforcing these particular content restrictions. If you search for the word “Asian” – or one of the many related terms – in Google, Bing, DuckDuckGo, or even Baidu, your browser will tell you that you cannot browse the page because “it is restricted”. It’s true whether you type a search query into your mobile browser’s address bar or navigate to a search engine’s homepage and attempt to search from there. Oddly enough, Yahoo is the only available search engine that Apple offers as a default option in Safari that handles these searches well.

(Full disclosure: Yahoo and Engadget have the same parent company, but that in no way affected the way we approached this story; this is all just a really weird coincidence.)

Perhaps most worrying is the fact that literally nothing of this is new news. The independentthe report quotes a recent tweet from IOS Developer Steven Shen, who – before tweeting about the situation recently – spotted the problem and filed a report about it with Apple in late 2019. Shortly after, in February 2020, Screen Time’s expected bias was reported. on Twitter by Charlie Stigler, a product strategist at Workday, a business services company.

“The adult content filter built into iOS blocks all searches with the keyword ‘Asian’, assuming it is pornographic content,” Stigler wrote at the time. “Which means that a 12-year-old Chinese-American girl could google ‘Asian hairstyles’ and find her culture is blocked as ‘adult content.’ “

As we now know, those efforts to change Apple’s approach here have not worked. We’ve reached out to the company for comment and will update this story if they respond.

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