Content moderation is one of the most talked-about challenges of sexual content on the internet. Getting the balance right between sex-positive freedom of expression and removing anything of a non-consensual and illegal nature doesn’t have a simple solution, and the issues around censorship and moderation aren’t going to be solved overnight.

Yesterday, iOS developer Steven Shen pointed out on Twitter that by enabling some privacy settings in the latest iOS update, any searches featuring the word ‘Asian’ came up with an error.

Image credit: twitter.com/StevenPotato

With the iOS 14 update, Apple users can opt to alter their content and privacy settings, choosing between ‘unrestricted access’, to ‘limit adult websites’ or accessing ‘allowed websites only’ (i.e. a parental lock).

Shen found that selecting ‘limit adult websites’ meant Safari and any other installed web browser blocked all searches for phrases such as ‘Asian countries’ and ‘Asian food’ when the restriction was active. The error message reads: “The URL was blocked by a content filter.”

At the time of publishing this article, Shen had tweeted that someone at Apple was aware of the problem and a fix was expected soon. However, Shen’s original tweet said he had filed feedback “a long time ago” to no response.

As a further example, another Twitter user found that the URL to search for the dictionary definition of the word ‘Asian’ was also blocked.

More users commented that internet searches for ‘amateur’, ‘redhead’ and ‘ebony’ also brought up no results when the ‘limit adult websites’ setting was enabled.

Apple has long been prudish around sex in an effort to placate shareholders with limiting content of an explicit nature. But the ins and outs of restricting content more precisely is only gradually improving.

For now, Apple users looking for ebony furniture or the best hair dyes for redheads – better keep their internet access ‘unrestricted’.

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