Whoops

Apple should’ve seen the iMessage porn GIF problem coming

Elena Scotti/FUSION

Apple’s iOS 10 update includes a fun new feature in iMessage: users can easily insert GIFs into their messages. But there’s been one big problem. Users searching for GIFs using relatively innocuous terms have been stumbling upon porn.

When Deadspin did a GIF search for “butt,” the result was a Little Pony pulling down its pants. According to her mother, an 8-year-old found a GIF of a woman giving a blowjob when she searched “huge,” reported The Verge. This is particularly embarrassing for Apple which has a history of being very puritanical about porn.

But Apple should’ve seen this coming. Why’s that? Because the GIF search feature uses Microsoft’s Bing search engine, and Bing has basically been optimized for finding images of porn, as the Daily Dot reported in 2014.

That’s because in 2012 Google adjusted SafeSearch so that it wasn’t possible to fully turn off AND so that it was much harder to use Google Image Search to find porn. In response, the horny masses turned to Bing. Because image searches are trained by user behavior, the many users looking for explicit images caused those images to rise to the top of search results.

Nonetheless, Apple is pretty loyal to Bing, which has been the default search engine for Siri since 2013, and so Bing is where the GIFs in iMessage come from. In response to the news that these images are popping up, Apple is already scrubbing search terms with gusto. Apple has blocked results for showing up for “butt,” “huge,” and “hard.” And when I did searches for “wet,” “large,” “moist,” “giant,” and “long,” I didn’t get any porny results. But there are a lot of porn GIFs on Bing, and a lot of innocuous words you can use to find ’em, so good luck with that.