Apple blocks emails containing phrase 'barely legal teen' from iCloud in new 'anti-pornography' move

Critics say screening of emails another step on the ladder towards 'Apple control'

Apple is deleting all emails on its iCloud service that contain the phrase 'barely legal teen,' according to an investigation by a computing magazine.

Macworld completed a test on the service, where they attempted to send two almost identical emails:

1) 'My friend's son is already allowed to drive his high-powered car. It's ridiculous. He's a barely legal teenage driver? What on earth is John thinking'

2) ) 'My friend's son is already allowed to drive his high-powered car. It's ridiculous. He's barely a legal teenage driver? What on earth is John thinking'

On attempting to receive the mails, only the second one got through.

The phrase 'barely legal teen' is used in pornographic searches by people hoping to find pictures of material featuring men and/or women who have just passed the minimum age required to appear in pornography (18 in most countries).

Although some would consider the phrase to have a strong association with paedophilia, it has been noted that 'barely legal' porn is, as its name suggests, not illegal, and users on social news site Reddit have criticised Apple for such 'censoring'.

Though Apple has no legal obligation to block the phrase 'barely legal teen', its terms of service state that it has every right to do so.

The terms of service state: "You acknowledge that Apple is not responsible or liable in any way for any Content provided by others and has no duty to pre-screen such Content. However, Apple reserves the right at all times to determine whether Content is appropriate and in compliance with this Agreement, and may pre-screen, move, refuse, modify and/or remove Content at any time, without prior notice and in its sole discretion, if such Content is found to be in violation of this Agreement or is otherwise objectionable."

Macworld began their investigation after the issue was brought to their attention by a reader of their sister title Infoworld who was having trouble receiving a film script that contained the phrase.

Apple told Macworld that the problem was connected with automatic spam folders:

"Occasionally, automated spam filters may incorrectly block legitimate email," an Apple spokesperson said. "If the customer feels that a legitimate message is blocked, we encourage customers to report it to AppleCare."

Apple has a history of being anti-pornography. Founder Steve Jobs, who died in 2011, once said that the tech giant represented the chance for "freedom of porn" and the iTunes store does not allow pornographic apps, nor does the iBookstore allow pornographic literature.

The iBookstore rejected an e-book submission on the hippie movement because it contained photographs of naked people.

Macworld writer Mark Hattersley said: "Censoring the emails of personal individuals using Apple cloud services does seem to be another step on the ladder towards Apple control. People do not have to use Apple's iCloud service, there are plenty of rivals such as Gmail and Live, but Apple makes iCloud easy to set up and it still feels like a personal intrusion to have Apple's computers deciding what you can and can;t say."

 

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