Porn is Sneaking into the New GIF Search Feature in iOS 10 Messages

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One of several new features in iOS 10 Messages is the ability to quickly search for send animated GIFs directly from within the app. It’s a handy feature that many iOS users will appreciate, but it’s already the focus of some controversy. You see, those GIF images have to come from somewhere, and that “somewhere” is the Internet (a.k.a. “a wretched hive of scum and villainy“).

It seems that the Messages GIF search, which is powered by Microsoft’s Bing, is returning inappropriate results in some cases. Specifically, porn.

imessage gif porn

Reports are coming in from multiple outlets that users searching for (relatively) innocuous words and phrases are seeing a combination of hilarious and terrifying results in the GIFs displayed in Messages. Deadspin reports that searching with the word “butt” returned a result featuring a “My Little Pony” character exposing itself, while The Verge claims that a mother and daughter who searched “huge” received a live animation of a woman fellating a well-endowed male. While Apple has seemingly blocked searches for obviously sexually-related body parts, users searching for certain misspelled body parts are also occasionally seeing pornographic results.

Apple has quietly responded to the initial incidents by removing all GIF results for the affected words, but the company has yet to comment publicly on the matter. The situation is somewhat embarrassing for Apple, which has publicly taken a stand against pornography on multiple occasions. While it doesn’t have a perfect track record, the company officially does not allow pornographic content on its App Store, and provides comprehensive parental controls in its operating systems. Apple has even pulled certain apps, or marked them with an “inappropriate content” rating, because those apps, while innocent on their own, allowed access to social networks or the Internet.

Apple’s goal, especially in iOS, is to provide a controlled and “family-friendly” environment. The new GIF search in Messages complicates matters by introducing a new vector by which inappropriate content can be encountered, intentionally or not. After all, a parent restricting their child’s iPhone use may think to restrict Safari and third party apps, but might overlook restricting GIFs in Messages.

With word of the incidents spreading in the wake of this week’s iOS release, Apple and Microsoft are undoubtedly working quickly to try and filter GIF results in Messages. Until they figure it out, however, be careful what you search for, and what you send to Grandma.

One Comment Add a comment

  1. Is there a way to delete previous searches? I cannot seem to delete previous searches. Every time I pull up the gif keyboard, my previous searches are there. Some are misspelled and do produce inappropriate results; and so I would like to delete them. BUT HOW!?

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