Filtering out the “Asians”

The article’s title speaks for itself, “Your iPhone’s Adult Content Filter Blocks Anything ‘Asian’”. Victoria Song has tested the claims made by The Independent: if you enable the “Limit Adult Websites” function in your iPhone’s Screen Time setting, then you are blocked from seeing any Google search results for “Asian”. Related searches such as “Asian recipes,” or “Southeast Asian,” are also blocked by the adult content filter. There is no clarity or transparency to how search terms are considered adult content or not, and whether the process is automated or done manually. Regardless of intention, the outcome and the lack of action by Google or Apple is unsurprising but disconcerting. It is far from a mistake, but rather, a feature of their commercial practices and their disregard to the social harms of their business model.

A possibility to why “Asian” is deemed as restricted content is that the word “Asian,” and relatedly, “Asian girls” is often associated with pornography, further hyper-sexualised by Google search. In Algorithms of Oppression, Safiya Noble illustrates how Google’s search engine reinforces existing racial and gender stereotypes while absolving itself from any responsibility. Noble utilised a variety of keywords including “Asian girls,” “Latinas,” and “black girls,” in which the search returned sexualised and objectified results.

Google owns 90% of the global search engine market. As Google remains a key portal to how people, including children, perceive and relate to the world, I worry about the misrepresentation, exclusion and erasure of histories that are being inflicted onto individuals and communities.

See: Your iPhone’s Adult Content Filter Blocks Anything ‘Asian’ on Gizmodo.

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